He’s played 257 NRL games, scored 127 tries and is the Canberra Raiders co-captain, but the arrival of Curtis Scott has Jarrod Croker looking over his shoulder.
Croker has been a mainstay on the Green Machine’s left edge, forming a deadly combination with young gun Nick Cotric. But the fact Scott can play either right or left centre means he’ll push Croker and Joey Leilua throughout the pre-season.
Scott was part of NSW coach Brad Fittler’s Emerging Blues camp last week and played in two NRL grand finals during his four seasons with the Melbourne Storm. He only played nine games this year due to a foot injury, but is starting to get into full work with the Raiders squad.
“Curtis has played both sides, so I’ve got to be on my toes,” Croker said. “It’s no different to any other year with anyone else coming through. He’s a quality player. He was obviously in the Blues emerging squad for a reason. He’s a talented footballer and he’s signed here long term.
Croker admitted there was already a different feel around the club following the departures of winger Rapana to Japanese rugby and Aidan Sezer to the English Super League – especially given Rapana’s role as the Raiders’ serial pest.
Scott and half Matt Frawley have already joined the group, while England international George Williams will arrive early next year.
Croker felt Bailey Simonsson was the natural replacement for Rapana on the right wing, but said there were several young players staking their claim during the pre-season. Plus, there’s the ever reliable Michael Oldfield, who has scored 12 tries in 18 Canberra appearances.
“Obviously Bailey had an outstanding year last year; he could’ve played anywhere in the back line,” Croker said. “When you’ve got Bails and Nick [Cotric] there you’re spoiled for choice between those two and ‘Oldie’.”
Croker said because of the short pre-season – because the Raiders made the grand final – it was important for everyone to come back in good shape. He said most had and he was expecting those who return in the new year – the England internationals, plus Josh Papalii, Leilua and Joe Tapine – to also come back fit and firing. Croker said after the Christmas break they would have eight weeks to get ready for the 2020 campaign.
“You’ve got to come back in good enough shape to get fit quicker,” he said. “And most of the boys have done that. It’s a positive there. You don’t have to spend as much time getting fit and getting flogged – you can spend a lot more time on footy.”