Rugby League


Next Croker off rank taking uncle's big shoes in his stride

His uncle is the lone member of the Raiders' 300-game club and scored more tries than the multitude of legends to wear the lime green.

And Canberra development officer David Hamilton has backed Lachlan Croker to emerge from the shadow of club legend Jason and forge his own identity at the Raiders.

Croker has been a standout for Canberra's Harold Mathews side this year and was rewarded with a place in last night's NSW under-16 Possibles v Probables clash at Leichhardt Oval.

The Blues side to play the Origin I curtain-raiser at Etihad Stadium on May 23 will be announced this Saturday.

Hamilton admitted Bungendore junior Croker was in danger of slipping through the cracks after failing to fire at five-eighth early this season. But Harold Mathews coach Brett Mason's decision to shift him to centre has proved a raging success.

Carrying a famous surname can often put undue pressure on young players, but Hamilton rates Croker one of the best prospects in the Raiders' bulging nursery.


Jason's 318 games and 120 tries are club records, and Canberra is hopeful the son of his brother Dale can follow in his footsteps.

''[He] Mason had him at six and I told him I don't think he's a six, then he moved him into centre and he jumped out of the ground,'' Hamilton said.

''Defensively he's very good and is a great runner of the ball.

''He'll work with our high performance unit over the winter, and we'll be working really hard with him.''

Mason said Croker embraced having less responsibility to run the side after being moved out wider.

It's a sign he has inherited Jason's versatility, the long-serving Raider playing every position bar prop in his 15-year career.

''Five-eighth is a tough position at the best of times, let alone stepping up to this level after playing division two junior footy,'' Mason said.

''There's a bit less pressure on him playing centre, and he's done a really good job for us there.''

Canberra's boom youngster Jack Wighton, who broke into the NRL this year, is also equally adept at centre and five-eighth.

Mason said Croker had a long way to go before reaching Wighton's level, but that a return to the halves in the future was possible.

''Jack's a pretty handy package and Lachlan's a different mould to that, but certainly I could see him playing five-eighth for us in the future,'' Mason said.

Mason described his side's campaign as frustrating after it secured just one win and a draw from nine matches.

''We competed with all the teams, including the grand finalists [premier Parramatta and Newcastle], but I guess we took a season to learn how to do that through a full game,'' he said.

''There are some good kids that will push forward to the 18s [SG Ball] and the quality of the kids is one of the best I've had [in three years in the job].''