A few years ago the Raiders approached two promising young rugby league players from Wagga Wagga about coming to Canberra to train and play in the junior program. In theory, it should have been a straightforward exercise.
It proved to be anything but that. This was due to the NSW Country Rugby League imposing a development fee on the club for each of the two players if they were brought into the Raiders’ system.
The Raiders opted against paying the fee and the young players missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Fast forward to 2019 and the landscape has changed dramatically.
A new zoning system implemented by the Country Rugby League two years ago has resulted in the Raiders assuming responsibility for some of the costs for developing players in areas such as Bega, Wagga Wagga, Cooma and Young.
Centres such as Queanbeyan and Goulburn had already been in Canberra’s recruiting zone so no fee needed to be paid to the NSW Country Rugby League.
This means the Raiders, through their role in developing young players in an area such as Bega, no longer have to pay the extra cost. This had been a barrier in the past when signing players from outside the zone.
Another important factor is that the Raiders receive first pick in selecting players from their allocated group. The hope is that players such as Euan Aitken and Dale Finucane in the future will come to Canberra ahead of rival clubs who will now have to pay a fee.
It is one of the reasons why the Raiders have opted to play a trial.
The other, of course, is the support provided by the Bega Council when the Raiders were campaigning for NSW Government funding for their Centre of Excellence at Braddon.
This will result in promising young players from throughout the development zone coming to Canberra to train in a high-performance environment.
Wagga Wagga will host a premiership game for the next two seasons. Queanbeyan and Goulburn will secure pre-season trials in the coming years.
The development zones put in place by the Country Rugby League are the reasons why the Panthers play in Bathurst and St George/Illawarra, in Mudgee.
The Raiders have long advocated being the team for country NSW. They can now effectively put this into practice.