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Raiders bushfire move to Qld likely to get NRL cap exemption

Canberra's pre-season shift to Queensland due to bushfire smoke in the nation's capital is expected to be granted salary cap exemption by the NRL.

The Raiders will spend 10 days on the Sunshine Coast from this Thursday following an influx of bushfire smoke that has made the ACT's air quality the worst in the world.

Canberra cancelled their planned outdoor training in lieu of a gym session on Monday before preparing to hit the road, moving their entire full-time squad interstate due to the dangerous conditions.

From 2020 the NRL's $5.93 million cap on football department spending comes into effect, with training camps, facilities and innovations and coaching salaries all coming under the off-field cap.

Clubs are slated to pay a 37.5% tax should they spend over that figure, but any moves made due to dangerous training conditions are likely to be granted an exemption by head office.

"Club doctors are the best placed to determine if conditions are safe to train in," an NRL spokesman said.

"They have the expertise and can assess the conditions first hand to make the best possible decision regarding the welfare of our players.

Raiders recruit Curtis Scott.
Raiders recruit Curtis Scott.

"Naturally we would be sympathetic to any club who seeks an exemption to relocate training as a result of the bushfires."

Canberra's full squad, including international stars Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, Josh Hodgson and John Bateman, returns to training for the first time since their grand final loss to the Roosters.

NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield has been in contact with his counterparts at club level since before Christmas, though Canberra has been the heaviest hit by bushfire conditions due to its proximity to the NSW south coast and south east regions.

"With the prolonged effects of the current bushfire situation and the hazardous conditions due to smoke here in Canberra, we’ve made the decision to relocate training for a period to allow the playing group to prepare as best they can for the season without putting their health or safety at risk," Canberra CEO Don Furner said.

Smoke from the blazes saw Canberra's air quality index hover between 3,400 and 5,000 last weekend, with a reading above 200 considered hazardous.

Along with the Raiders, Super Rugby's ACT Brumbies have shifted their training base to the University of Newcastle, while tennis's Canberra International was moved to Bendigo.

Players outside of Canberra's top 30 squad will continue to train in the nation's capital at indoor facilities.

Furner also said the club is collaborating with the NRL around bushfire relief efforts, with Canberra's junior catchment areas in the Riverina and Far South Coast copping the brunt of NSW's fire front.

"We would like to commend the Rural Fire Service for the continued efforts they have sustained in fighting these bushfires in what has been a very tough and trying period," Furner said.

"There are several communities very close to Canberra including the South Coast and Riverina regions which have been impacted heavily during these fires and the club is working with the NRL on a way to best support these communities."