Canberra Raiders training at West Belconnen Leagues club yesterday morning - Josh McCrone and Josh Dugan. Photo: Colleen Petch
Leadership hasn't come naturally to Josh McCrone, but it's a trait the 25-year-old is slowly adjusting to in his role as one of the mainstays of the Canberra Raiders back line.
McCrone hasn't missed a game in almost two years, playing 42 straight since round 17, 2010.
He has alternated between five-eighth and halfback depending on the availability of captain Terry Campese.
Whether he has the No.6 or No.7 on his back is largely irrelevant.
McCrone controls one side of the field while second-year playmaker Sam Williams runs the other.
McCrone has taken on a more senior role in Campese's absence, given the task of talking to the referees when stand-in skipper David Shillington is off the field.
''It's something I've slowly grown into,'' McCrone says of leadership.
''It's something you have to start to develop, especially that I'm playing in the halves. I'm the bloke that has the main responsibility to get us around the park, although Sammy's been doing a pretty good job, too.''
Their partnership is still in its infancy.
They combined in 18 games last year for six wins, and brought up their first for 2012 in last weekend's 40-34 victory against Parramatta.
McCrone was rewarded for a strong first-half of the season with his debut representative jersey for Country.
The late replacement for Danny Buderus showed he wasn't out of his depth at the next level, providing plenty of spark around the ruck in the unfamilar dummy-half role.
''The biggest thing from that was the confidence knowing I can mix it with that calibre of player,'' McCrone said.
McCrone's career started off slowly, moving from the Raiders to the Panthers at the end of 2006 only to return in 2009 without a first grade game to his name. He began the year in the Queensland Cup with Souths Logan, but that experience of leading a senior side helped him overhaul Marc Herbert in the race to become the Raiders' first-choice halfback.
McCrone last year inked a new two-year contract extension that ties him to the Raiders until the end of 2014.
''I learnt a lot about myself when I went to Penrith, what it really took and how lucky I was to have the opportunity in Canberra,'' he said.
''I suppose I came back with a stronger work ethic. I always considered myself a good trainer, but maybe I was a bit hungrier and realised I could play at this level.''
Meanwhile, second-rower Josh Papalii is confident the Raiders can take the first step to turning their season around against the South Sydney Rabbitohs next Friday.
Papalii is expected to miss the ANZ Stadium encounter with nerve damage in his arm, but could be back for the following week's match after the hard-hitting second-rower was cleared of a suspected broken arm.
''I know they'll do the job without me and hopefully we can turn our season around,'' Papalii said.
The Raiders have confirmed they will stage a trial game in Goulburn next year to celebrate the town's 150th anniversary.
The club will take on the Canterbury Bulldogs in Goulburn before playing Melbourne in Bega.