Canberra winger Jordan Rapana believes the NRL club’s culture and depth will be key to covering the loss of captain Jarrod Croker who has been sidelined by a knee injury.
While Croker’s dislocated kneecap he suffered in Friday night’s All Stars clash is at the minor end of the scale for the injury, he’s still unlikely to figure for the Raiders at least until their round-four clash against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on March 24.
While Sia Soliola and English hooker Josh Hodgson are the leading candidates to wear the captain’s armband, UK import Jordan Turner could slot in at centre for Croker.
It could also pave the way for coach Ricky Stuart to give youngsters Nick Cotric or Brent Naden their first-grade debuts.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at the club,” Rapana said.
“I’m sure Ricky will have no problem being able to find someone to fill in for the few games that he’s missing.
“It’s a big loss for us but the depth is there and I’m sure we’ve got someone to come in.”
Croker, the Dally M captain of the year, became the Raiders’ all-time leading point scorer last year as he topped the NRL points tally for the third time.
The kicking responsibilities are set to fall to halfback Aidan Sezer.
While he won’t lead the Raiders on to the field in the early stages of a season where they are premiership contenders, Rapana expects Croker to remain influential around the playing group.
“No doubt he’ll still be a leader from the sidelines,” Rapana said.
“We’ve got a lot of leaders here at the club and the culture is good so I’m sure Ricky will have no problem putting someone in to take his spot.
“The wonderful thing about the culture of the club is that we have not just one player like Jarrod but a whole team of Jarrods.”
Prop Shannon Boyd said he expected Soliola or Hodgson to take the on-field leadership duties.
Boyd said if the Raiders players were able to continue their strong form from the second half of last season then they would increasingly push for representative honours including the ANZAC Test in Canberra on May 5.
“Everyone’s performance towards the back end of the year was outstanding,” Boyd said.
“If everyone can go into this year with the same form I can’t see why they can’t be picked.”