Canberra Raiders call on Huawei

Ill-fated: Former Tigers star Benji Marshall playing for the Auckland Blues Super Rugby club. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSON
Ill-fated: Former Tigers star Benji Marshall playing for the Auckland Blues Super Rugby club. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSON

The Canberra Raiders aren't in the market for Benji Marshall, but they are hoping to have better luck convincing major sponsor Huawei to stick around.

The Raiders hosed down speculation on Monday they were the latest NRL club prepared to throw former Wests star Marshall a lifeline after his ill-fated stint in rugby union.

Of more immediate concern is talks with Huawei as the Chinese telecommunications giant decides whether to extend its three-year deal with the Raiders.

Huawei has until the end of May before the Raiders start the search for a new sponsor for next season.

The Raiders will host officials from Huawei during their next home game against the Penrith at Canberra Stadium on May 18.

After recently extending the contract of key sponsor Defence Housing Australia, Raiders chief executive Don Furner was optimistic an agreement would be reached with Huawei.

"We want to keep our major sponsor on board," Furner said.

The Raiders announced a two-year partnership with the company in April 2012, subsequently agreeing to extend the deal until the end of this year. It was the first major sponsorship of a professional sporting team for Huawei, which was keen to use the exposure to break into the Australian market.

Huawei is also a major sponsor of A-League team the Wellington Phoenix.

On the field, the priority for the Raiders is retaining their young talent before exploring options.

The exception is Melbourne Storm back-rower Kevin Proctor, Furner confirming the Raiders were one of several clubs who had spoken to the manager of the New Zealander, expected to command at least $500,000 per season.

The Raiders were also linked to Marshall, who is yet to sign with an NRL club after parting ways with Super Rugby team the Auckland Blues in April.

The St George Illawarra Dragons are the favourites to secure Marshall's signature, while the Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors have also been raised as possible destinations.

"[Marshall's] name has never come up and as far as I know no-one has had a meeting with him or about him," Furner said.

The Raiders have been proactive in re-signing several players, including Shaun Fensom, Joel Edwards, Shannon Boyd, Jack Wighton and Dane Tilse.

Their next target is Country utility Josh McCrone, while they were also keen on extending the contracts of centre Matt Allwood and prop Paul Vaughan, who is signed until the end of next year.

Veteran front-rower Brett White will decide on his playing future by the end of May, while Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Reece Robinson are among the other players off contract at the end of the season.


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