How the Canberra rugby league team raids New Zealand's rugby union youngsters
20:37, Feb 22 2017
He once lured All Blacks star Nehe Milner-Skudder to the Canterbury Bulldogs and now Canberra Raiders recruitment director Peter Mulholland is raiding the next batch of New Zealand rugby union young guns.
Under-20s players Paul Roache
and Mikaele Ravalawa have moved to Canberra after coming through the New Zealand schoolboy rugby system and Mulholland said it was just another cog in the Green Machine's overall recruitment strategy.
It's not something new for Mulholland, who also lured Milner-Skudder into the Bulldogs' under-20s system before he went on to become one of the best wingers in world rugby.
He also went after Roache
's Mount Albert Grammar teammate Niven Longopoa, an exciting fullback, but said he'd missed out on him to Super Rugby's Waikato Chiefs - although he vowed he'd "keep working on him, don't worry".
The Raiders recruitment boss used Milner-Skudder as a selling point to bring Roache
and Ravalawa across the ditch, but also the success and culture Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has established.
suffered a similar injury to Raiders captain Jarrod Croker at training and will miss six months after needing surgery on the knee he dislocated at training.
"I did it with Milner-Skudder, the All Black, I took him over to Canterbury and he had two seasons in the NYC and when I left Canterbury he went back to rugby union and became an All Black," Mulholland said.
"Kids in New Zealand can also see our development programme as a pathway, not just into the NRL but also to go back and play club level rugby union.
"He's been a great example of that for us and that was a good selling point. What Ricky's done in Canberra has also sold it to a couple of these young players, which has been tremendous."
Mulholland said New Zealand's production line of rugby stars meant it was an obvious recruitment target, given the Kiwis have "dominated a particular code of rugby for the last 30 or 40 years".
was the New Zealand schoolboys first five-eighth, while Fijian Ravalawa went to school at Burnside College in Christchurch.
"You're talking about a country that's dominated a particular code of rugby for the last 30 or 40 years and their first-choice athletes are very, very good," Mulholland said.
"Plus the school system there basically educates them in every facet of it - values, education, the whole works.
"They've been through wonderful programmes and they're usually the first choice athletes in New Zealand.
... was a New Zealand schoolboys five-eight and he's very, very good. He's been through a great school, been through a great programme so they're the reasons you look at them."
With the go-home factor a potential problem, the Raiders sent welfare manager David Thom over with Mulholland to talk to the potential targets to ensure they had the best chance of successfully relocating.
Mulholland said Canberra was an easy sell to a lot of young Kiwis, especially those in the country, because it wasn't a massive city like Sydney.
He said the club's success last season, plus the proposed new training complex at Braddon, were also lures.
While talk of Milner-Skudder sets the bar high, Mulholland said they weren't setting any unrealistic goals.
"No expectations. I think it's about how they settle in and what they're doing. Their ability is no problem, it's about adapting to the game and adapting to the lifestyle here and it's pretty easy," he said.
"We took our welfare manager to New Zealand when we met with these kids and their families. There's some kids that we interviewed that we just wouldn't bring back.
"They were great players, they just weren't suited to relocation. Whereas these boys were absolutely perfectly placed for it."
Peter Mulholland is the ultimate Canberra Raider. Trouble is, he raids New Zealand.