Rugby League

Lachlan Croker won't be fazed as rookie halves do battle in Canberra

Jarrod Croker reckons the only place his namesake Lachlan Croker is a teenager is on his birth certificate. 

The 19-year-old half boasts maturity beyond his years and it's why the Canberra Raiders skipper believes it isn't a risk to thrust him into the big time against the Roosters on Saturday.

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Jarrod has watched Lachlan battle determinedly to bounce back from serious knee and shoulder injuries to make his NRL debut. 

Injuries to Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer have forced the Raiders to blood Croker slightly earlier than expected, forming a new halves partnership with Sam Williams.

The halves will be a preview of Generation Next with Roosters pair Jackson Hastings (20 years old, 20 games) and Jayden Nikorima (19, debuted last week) also finding their feet. 

"Lachlan doesn't seem like he's 19 years old, he seems like he's been around and he's 23 or 24," Jarrod Croker said.

"He's calm, he doesn't show any nerves and he's solid, he's put some good weight on too.

Canberra Raiders' Lachlan Croker will make his first-grade debut against the Roosters on Saturday.
Canberra Raiders' Lachlan Croker will make his first-grade debut against the Roosters on Saturday. Photo: Graham Tidy

"It's probably a blessing in disguise, his shoulder injury last year. He really filled out well and he's going to handle it fine. 

"It's good for kids out there who have had a few injuries to look at someone like Lachie. He's had a few bad injuries, one good pre-season and round two he's straight into first grade.

"If you're determined enough like Lachie is, then it'll come for you.

"We all know how well Sam can lead a team around, that will help Lachlan out a lot."

As will the fact he will defend on the left side beside renowned hit man Josh Papalii. 

The influence of suspended halfback Mitchell Pearce on Hastings and Jayden Nikorima is set to have a crucial impact on their early season form.

Hastings and Nikorima, on his NRL debut, struggled against the Rabbitohs.

Former Brisbane utility Nikorima said Pearce had been instrumental in his development thus far.

"He was a big influence on me signing here, so throughout the first half of the pre-season he helped me improve my game and having him back and his words around the boys are encouraging," Nikorima said.

"It is good to see his face again. He has sat me down and said what I can do to improve my game. It is always good to hear from an Origin half."

The Roosters' 42-10 loss to Souths was a nightmare debut for Nikorima.

"It wasn't the start I was looking for, I thought I could have offered a bit more to the team," he said.

"I had a good chat with Robbo (coach Trent Robinson) and he just said to keep my head high and try and get my hands on the ball a bit more next time.

"And the older boys just told me it doesn't happen often, they all just gave me a big hug and told me to get over it and get ready for next week.

Nikorima was confident he and good mate Hastings, who has played just 20 first grade games, could strike up an effective combination during Pearce's eight-game ban.

"Jackson and I have spoken since Sunday about what we can do better in terms of controlling the team," he said.

"He has been there before he is helping me a long the way."

with AAP