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Stuart already seeing benefits of James' leadership

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has praised the leadership of new recruit Ryan James after the prop chose to start pre-season training early alongside the club's Jersey Flegg squad.

Junior members of Canberra's NRL squad officially returned to training on Monday, but James has already spent the previous couple of weeks slogging it out.

The the 29-year-old former Titans captain, who has played 144 NRL matches, has been sidelined for the majority of the past two years due to ACL injuries.

James has signed with Canberra until the end of 2022.

"He put his hand up and wanted to train with the 20s and 21s. I've heard some stories about Ryan grabbing a couple of kids and showing them a certain way to lift or a certain way to train," Stuart said.

"It's wonderful to have that type of NRL player's experience. Ryan's been in the game a long time, he's experienced. For a younger player, I know how excited the younger players were to have Ryan around.

Ryan James raring to go

"He's a good person, Ryan, and he'll be a great fit to the club."

Stuart has spoken with the NRL on Monday about hooker Tom Starling after he was arrested on the weekend after an alleged incident on the Central Coast.

No decision has been made by the NRL or Canberra to stand down Starling. He will appear at Gosford Local Court on January 21.

As well as James, the Raiders have also been boosted by the addition of promising outside back Albert Hopoate - who debuted for Manly at the end of last season - on a one-year deal.

Like James, the 19-year-old has been hampered by knee injuries in recent years, but Stuart was delighted to have him on board.

Albert Hopoate during his rookie season at Manly.
Albert Hopoate during his rookie season at Manly. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Hopoate will "soon" begin training with the club.

"It's just a great opportunity for him. I met with him, his father [John] and Tyran Smith, his manager, last week," Stuart said.

"I've coached Will [Albert's brother who plays for Canterbury] before in Origin and he reminds me of the same personality as Will Hopoate.

"You just want to hope that he gets a little bit of good luck with his legs ... and gets some longevity into his season."

Former Panthers fullback Caleb Aikens and Wigan forward Harry Rushton are other additions to the Raiders' squad.

Stuart said Canberra's senior contingent had "been doing a lot of training with their off-season programs" together away from the club.

"That's really important when you have short pre-seasons," he added.

Analysing the Raiders' 2021 draw

"This year would've been very important in regards to the mental break as much as the physical break because of the last season, especially for the senior players, the guys that were in the bubble.

"It was a long, hard year. The mental break will have been so important. If they come back and they have got that bit of energy about them, you know they've had a good little break."

Origin representatives Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui aren't due back until after the Christmas period.

Raiders prop Ryan James.
Raiders prop Ryan James. ©raiders.com.au

In the meantime, Stuart is "excited" to see rookies mixing with established first-graders as they initially focus on "fundamentals and conditioning" in preparation for 2021.

"Younger players create an edge for the coaches too," he said.

"I feel we've got a very good young group of players and I'm looking forward to coaching them and helping them with the early stages of my careers.

"When they come back in, you've got to think they've forgotten absolutely everything about the game and just start again."