No more excuses – Canberra captain Jarrod Croker admits the pressure will be on the Raiders to perform under coach Ricky Stuart in 2016 now he’s got “the team that he wants”.
After a 2015 NRL finals near miss, Croker said they could no longer afford to give any more hard luck stories in Stuart’s third year at the NRL club.
Croker welcomed new arrivals such as ex-Gold Coast pivot Aidan Sezer, former Knights hooker Adam Clydsdale and ex-Melbourne powerhouse Jeff Lima when Canberra became the first NRL team to return from the off-season on Monday.
Stuart’s Raiders had plenty to complain about after their 2015 finals chances were ended by a dramatic round 23 loss to Manly, sealed by Brett Stewart’s try from an offside position.
In the end, they finished two wins outside the top eight.
And there were probably a few more grumbles after they were summoned to become the first team back to train for 2016.
They had seven weeks off after their 28-24 NRL win over Parramatta on September 6, now it’s up to the Raiders to turn into a green machine that is firing on all cylinders in 2016.
“He’s got the team that he wants, it is up to us now,” Croker said.
“There’s not many players left from a couple of years ago, so it’s been a bit of a fresh start the last 18 months to two years.
“I am excited about it (challenge). I know Sticky (Stuart) is as well.”
Croker looked forward to Sezer adding healthy competition to their incumbent halves combination – No.7 Sam Williams and Dally M Five-eighth of the Year Blake Austin.
“I met Aidan so I know he is excited to get into it,” Croker said.
Williams was unfazed by Sezer’s arrival.
“I am excited about the chance to challenge myself, learn about Aidan and his game and try and push each other so we can be in the best position we can be come round one,” Williams told reporters on Monday.