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'Sticky was looking after me': Croker primed after extra time off

Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said he didn't enjoy sitting back and watching the opening two rounds but knows coach Ricky Stuart was looking after his long-term well-being in keeping him on ice.

Croker admitted he got more nervous watching than playing, but praised the efforts of the squad and particularly his replacement Seb Kris in helping the side to a 2-0 start ahead of Croker's return from rehabilitating his shoulder.

"It's always hard waiting round for the start of the year and then having to miss the first couple of games so I'm keen to get back into it," Croker told NRL.com.

"It will be a full month of training now that I've had. That was always something our rehab trainer mentioned, at the end of getting everything right you need that three weeks to a month of full training.

"By not playing I've had three weeks of full-on training, weights and getting the shoulder strong so a mix of that and training with the boys as well, getting into all the detail around the game and getting out on the park with the team for a month."

Croker could have played round one but Stuart was adamant the 30-year-old needed to be 100 per cent fit ahead of a long season and made the call on his skipper's behalf.

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"I did want to play but once I realised 'Sticky' was looking after me and taking that out of my hands, which was what needed to happen I think and he knew that, that's why he did it," Croker said.

"He knows I would have wanted to play and whether it was 90 or 95 or 99 per cent he wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent so he was doing the best for me and I knew that straight away.

"Once I knew I wasn't going to play it gave me a clearer mindset of not having to worry about it because once I did come back to play it wouldn't be something I'd be thinking about it. Stick knew what was best for not only the team but me as well so I think it's worked out."

The upside was a chance for Kris, who made a strong comeback after falling away from the game a bit last year.

"He's been great Sebby, it's been good to see him really take that opportunity," Croker said.

"He's added to that depth we've got and really putting pressure on all the outside backs, myself included coming back in, he's played two really good games and I've got to go out and perform now.

"He's a great young kid Sebby. He had a tough year last year, he's come back and trained the house down since November when they came back so he's been working really hard, he got given his shot and took it with both hands."

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For Croker, playing is obviously preferable to watching but especially so with two wins already on the board plus a large home crowd and a Canterbury Cup curtain-raiser in store on Saturday afternoon.

"Having two strong sides and the fact we've got reserve grade now, this week I can't wait having reserve grade playing before us at GIO Stadium on a Saturday arvo, it's brilliant," he said.

"It's nice to come in to (two wins) but also adds a bit of pressure, I need to make sure we keep winning now that I'm back in there.

"It's always nice to start the year well. We've been OK the last couple of years but traditionally it's something we weren't great at so the last few years we've really focused on those first couple of games.

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"We've got an opportunity at home now to make it three in a row so that's all we're worried about at the moment."

Croker also had some praise for this weekend's opponents the Warriors, who have impressed over the opening two rounds with a convincing win over the Titans and narrow loss to the Knights.

"They've been great; for what they've had to go through over the last 15 or 18 months, the season they played last year as well as the way they've started this year, it's a credit to those boys and we know exactly what we've got to expect," Croker said.

"They're a good side, a powerful team with some good signings and arguably one of the best players in the comp at fullback.

"They've had to spend a lot of time away from their families as well. We know what they're coming down here to do so we've got to be ready."

 

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