Croker backs Austin to fire as bench spark plug

Croker backs Austin to fire as bench spark plug

Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker expects Blake Austin to star in his new role of bench utility when they kick off their Telstra Premiership campaign against the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

Coach Ricky Stuart made the shock decision to start Sam Williams in the halves alongside Aidan Sezer instead of the incumbent Austin.

However, Croker said Austin has embraced the change and expects him to menace the Titans defenders at Cbus Super Stadium.  

"Blake's put the team first and he's excited for his new role," Croker said.

"We've spoken about putting the team first and Blake's taken that straight away and it's a team-first attitude by Blake and he's been great.

"You can see what he brings on the field for 80 (minutes) so you could imagine the spark when he's on as the 14.

"He's that sort of bloke that get the crowd off their seats pretty quickly so I'm excited to him do that on Sunday."

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker.
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker. ©NRL Photos

Canberra have embraced a win-at-all-costs mentality as they seek to get back into the finals race and Croker said they would prefer to record ugly wins than pretty losses in 2018.

"We certainly can't get too caught up in looking too far ahead and you can easily get caught in that trap," he said.

"We're just focused on round one, winning then and then coming home to a packed-out Canberra Stadium and winning round two, and we can’t look any further ahead than that.

"We spoke about games last year when we played well but didn't win, we'd rather play ordinary and win this year, to be honest."

All eyes have been on the No.9 jersey as to who would fill the large shoes left vacant by the injured Josh Hodgson with Siliva Havili getting first crack at the job.

"He's very aggressive defensively which is what you need in a hooker given they get targeted a faitr bit in defence," Croker said.

"He's quite crafty out of dummy-half, but personally I am just looking for him to start as well as he can.

"But I am looking for the halves to step up and take control without Josh (Hodgson) being there."

Croker was wary of the new-look Titans, saying they could be walking into an ambush against a team full of confidence at the start of a new era.

"They've got a very strong side on paper, they've bought well in the off-season," he said.

"They've got a new coach and they'll have a big crowd there for the new coach and the new players, they're young so it’s going to be a good game."