NRL rookie Croker to debut for Raiders

Lachlan Croker will make his NRL debut for Canberra on Saturday after being named as Blake Austin’s replacement at five-eighth for the clash against Sydney Roosters.

Croker, nephew of club great Jason and a NSW Under-18s representative, will play alongside Sam Williams in the halves at GIO Stadium, following injuries to Austin (knee) and recruit Aidan Sezer (eye socket).

Williams returns from a virus that forced his late withdrawal from the club’s round one win over Penrith.

While admitting the loss of Austin and Sezer was a shame, Williams said the Raiders were well covered.

They had worked on different combinations in the pre-season while the star pair were continuing their rehab from respective shoulder surgeries.

“Lachy was certainly involved a lot of that,” he said.

“He’s done a lot of work in the halves and I think as any young player he’s been trying really hard to get his debut.

“… I think he’ll be ready to do it.”

In the absence of more experienced heads, 24-year-old Williams said it was important he took control of the team and worked closely with hooker Josh Hodgson to steer the Raiders around the park.

“It probably puts a little bit of extra responsibility on my shoulders but I think I’m a natural talker on the field and I’m happy leading the team around, calling the shots,” he added.

“It doesn’t change my game too much, I think it’s just important that when I get there out there I make the right calls.”

Williams will be enjoying a few extra mouthfuls of food this week, having lost some weight during what he described a “rough” night of sickness on Friday night.

He felt drained, flat and disappointed to miss out on a starting jumper, but pushing on and playing he believed would’ve been selfish.

“It’s just been another week I’ve had to wait and I’m just itching to get out there,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to our dietician and our strength and performance staff and they’ve given me all the right ideas to get the weight back on.

“It’s just about getting a lot of fluid back in, eating a lot and eating properly to try … and feel good come Saturday.”

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