Tilse backs McCrone to succeed at hooker

If Josh McCrone needed any assurance that his move to hooker will be an eventual success, he found it in the form of the giant frame of Dane Tilse, whom he will be packing down alongside in the Raiders scrum tomorrow.

McCrone will start the trial against the Melbourne Storm on Saturday in the number nine jumper alongside Tilse, who will start the match in the front-row.

Whilst two-time Country Origin representative McCrone is a proven halfback in the NRL, it is still yet to be determined how successful a permanent shift to dummy half duties will be for him.

Tilse has no such doubt of the imminent success the positional switch will provide the side though after observing McCrone up close and personal in his new role throughout pre-season.

“I’m confident that Josh will go really well at hooker,” Tilse enthused. “He’s obviously been a pretty creative halfback for us over the years so his skill around the ruck is going to be really good for us.

“He’s adapted well to the role over the pre-season and has been quite impressive actually. He’s provided a real boost for us out of dummy half in the opposed sessions.”

Given that McCrone is used to defending on the edge, the added defensive work-load in the middle of the field will be an element of his new role that will initially test him.

Knowing the competitive nature, toughness and outstanding fitness levels McCrone possesses, Tilse believes this is a hurdle that he will no doubt overcome.

“It will take him a few games to adapt to the role because it is a different type of fitness playing in the middle than what is required out on the edge. He might not have to play the entire 80 minutes, but he will just be playing at a higher intensity,” Tilse said.

“I’m sure they will try to work him over in defence and test him out but he’s really fit at the moment and is as competitive as ever so I think that he will handle that well.

“He’s one of the fitter blokes in the team so he will probably thrive with the extra defensive workload.”

Similarly, Tilse has also enjoyed a terrific pre-season and is in stellar shape. Although he is the most capped player at the club, Tilse believes that he still needs to earn his stripes in the side and that that his improved fitness levels are a necessity given the new breed of Raiders front-rowers breathing down his neck.

“I’m feeling really fit,” Tilse enthused. “I’ve had a good pre-season and I’ve only missed one session all year. I’m really looking forward to the start of the season.

“I’ve definitely got to keep on my toes. We’ve got Shannon Boyd and Jeff Lynch who are getting a start this weekend and Sam Mataora has got a lot fitter this year and is looking the goods as well. The older guys will have to be on our game this year because the younger guys have been really ripping in during pre-season.

“You always go into each season with a positive attitude but this year is a fresh start for us all, there’s a new coach to impress so the boys have probably amped it up a little bit during pre-season.

“It will be good to get a few cobwebs out of the way against the Storm. The first game of the year is always exciting and it will be good to get a gauge on how well we’re going.”

The trial against the Storm kicks off on Saturday at 6:30pm at AAMI Park.