Crocker to put body on the line in 2011 debut
Rabbitohs enforcer Michael Crocker will not hold anything back when he makes his 2011 debut against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, despite his delayed return following off-season surgery for injuries that saw him play only seven games last year.
Self preservation is not a concern for the former Queensland and Australian Test backrower - and the Rabbitohs' second most effective tackler in 2010 - despite the high injury toll in round one, which included a season-ending blow to team-mate Scott Geddes. Crocker replaces him on the interchange bench on Sunday.
"I don't consider myself a big hitter, but I am prepared to put my body on the line if that is what the team needs," Crocker told NRL.com. "I just love competing and most importantly doing my job for the team."
Crocker, 30, is widely respected for his "all or nothing" style of play, which has proven costly in recent years. He has played just 16 games in the past two seasons following shoulder, hip and ankle surgeries, along with achilles tendonitis and hamstring issues, and a knee clean-up this pre-season.
"I am just excited to be out there playing again," said Crocker. "My pre-season was great until the op, which was a minor setback.
"However my rehab program has allowed me to strengthen the left side of my body which was the problem last year so I am feeling very fresh and ready to go.
"I thought I was ready to go last week, however the coaching staff and medical staff felt I was underdone.
"[It was] probably a good call as it gave me that extra week to work on my rehab and also match fitness during some opposed sessions and some conditioning games."
Crocker's return will be welcome news for Rabbitohs coach John Lang, who has been forced to make some early season reshuffles after a costly first round, losing Ben Lowe (broken foot) and Gedddes (ruptured Achilles tendon), for the season, and Sam Burgess (shoulder) for three weeks.
"Obviously you can't replicate the combinations injured players have made, however we have all trained together, most of us for a few years now so we know each other's games pretty well," he said.
And while star recruit Greg Inglis is new to the red and greens, he is no stranger to Crocker, who played with him in the Storm, Queensland and Australian teams and is only too aware of what he can add to the Rabbitohs.
"Greggy is a true superstar of the game," Crocker said. "A lot of people forget he is only 24 years old, yet he has achieved and experienced just about everything the game has to offer.
"That experience and knowledge is invaluable to a team and I know a lot of the boys already look up to him - not just because of his size - and will definitely learn a lot from him."