The Canberra Raiders have begun the difficult task of negotiating to try to keep all three of their forward priorities who come off contract this year – internationals Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Bronson Harrison and the rapidly-improving Joe Picker – in the face of increasing salary cap pressure and growing interest from rival clubs.

The Raiders advanced to the second week of last years’s finals series, when they were eliminated by Wests Tigers. They lost chief playmaker Terry Campese late in that match with major damage to his knee that required a reconstruction but, after it was initially feared he could be out for the bulk or perhaps even all of this season, it is now anticipated he will return towards the halfway mark.

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On top of making the finals and marking themselves as a team of the future, with so many good young players in the side, Canberra bought strongly for this season with halfback Matt Orford, prop Brett White and outside back Blake Ferguson all joining the club. But the inevitable result of any club’s rise is that players start making representative teams and rival clubs begin targeting them with big offers, pushing their asking prices up.

The new television rights deal that will be negotiated in time for the 2013 season is expected to bring much more money into the game and result in the salary cap being raised significantly, but, as Furner pointed out, that won’t necessarily make it easier for Canberra to keep players.

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Canberra have even more stars coming off contract at the end of next year, including fullback Josh Dugan, prop David Shillington and outside backs Jarrod Croker and Daniel Vidot. Furner said that if the club can manage to retain the players coming off contract this year it would then try to extend the deals of some of next year’s off-contract players ahead of time.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald