In a timely boost, Canberra Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer has agreed to terms for a two-year contract extension ahead of their crucial clash against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Sunday.
The Raiders will lose big boppers Junior Paulo (Parramatta) and Shannon Boyd (Gold Coast) at the end of the season and still have a raft of key players off contract for 2019, including Sezer's halves partner Blake Austin.
But Sezer won't be one of those and will sign his new deal in the coming days.
Second-rower Josh Papalii's also close to penning a three-year extension, while back-up hooker Siliva Havili and prop Dunamis Lui are close to extending for two years.
There's been initial discussions around winger Michael Oldfield's future and he'll have the chance to further his cause filling in for New Zealand flyer Jordan Rapana (hamstring) over the next two months.
Meanwhile, Raiders second-rower Joe Tapine said he needed to tweak his game, but that won't include curbing his aggression.
Tapine returns from a two-game suspension for an innocuous shoulder charge on St George Illawarra fullback Matt Dufty in the Raiders' 25-18 loss in Mudgee last month.
He had carryover points from a dangerous throw on Gold Coast Titans captain Ryan James earlier in the season where he escaped suspension.
While he admitted he needed to make a few adjustments to his game, Tapine said dialling back his aggression wasn't one of them.
The 24-year-old said it had been frustrating watching from the sidelines with the Raiders' season hanging in the balance.
Given he's fresh, he'll try to bring energy to the team for his first game in four weeks.
"It happens in the moment of a game, it is unfortunate what happened. Not much in it, but obviously it's not legal so I've got to take that and tweak it a bit," Tapine said.
"But I'm not going to take any aggression away from my game or anything like that. I just need to a be bit smarter at times. Especially that time – [it] was a bit late in the half."
The Raiders are two wins outside the top eight and can go above the ninth-placed Tigers with a win on Sunday.
They've won their last three against the Tigers by an average of more than 45 points, but Tapine was wary of the much-improved outfit.
"They came out this year firing, they had a couple great games and up and down the last couple of weeks, but they're a great team and we can't take them lightly," he said.
"We've got to do our research and do our training and go down there and do our best."
Tapine should be picked in the New Zealand team for the controversial Test against England at Denver during the State of Origin bye weekend.
His Raiders teammate Elliott Whitehead has already been named in Wayne Bennett's England squad, along with potential future Raider John Bateman – with a release fee holding up the Wigan Warrior joining on a three-year deal.
"Yeah definitely, I want to be in that Test, I always want to play for my country no matter what. Just wait and see," Tapine said.
"I love playing with Elliott, but it will be good playing against him as well, playing for our countries especially, it brings a difference to the game too.
"You've got to keep it professional on your recoveries and stuff like. If I do get picked I'll make sure I look after the body as well because it's a long season left … it's just about being a bit more professional."
NRL ROUND 15
Sunday: Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown Stadium, 4:10pm. Live on Fox League.
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Michael Oldfield, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Luke Bateman, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Liam Knight. Reserves: 18. Emre Guler, 19. Brad Abbey, 20. Jack Murchie, 21. Craig Garvey.
Tigers: 1. Corey Thompson, 2. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Mahe Fonua, 5. Kevin Naiqama, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Russell Packer (c), 9. Elijah Taylor, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Chris Lawrence, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Matt Eisenhuth. Interchange: 14. Alex Twal, 15. Matt McIlwrick, 16. Josh Aloiai, 17. Tim Grant. Reserves: 18. Michael Chee Kam, 19. Tyson Gamble, 20. Sauaso Sue, 21. Chris McQueen.
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.
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