Canberra Raiders centre Joey Leilua takes on the Panthers defence.

Leilua set to make early comeback for Raiders clash with Warriors

The Canberra Raiders look set to receive a massive boost for their clash with the New Zealand Warriors, with Joey Leilua likely to take his place in the centres. 

Leilua looked an outside chance to be playing for several weeks, when he was bent over in an awkward gang tackle against the Newcastle Knights in round two.

However, Raiders captain Jarrod Croker expected the barnstorming ball-runner to line up against the powerful Warriors backline on Saturday afternoon at GIO Stadium.

"It's a massive bonus, obviously we were hopeful it wasn't anything too serious and Joey's been really good with his rehab this week," Croker said.

"And providing he gets through the session this morning (Friday) hopefully he's right to go."

Charlie Gubb has been ruled out for six weeks with a groin strain also suffered last week against the Knights.

Gubb's misfortune has handed a club debut to Liam Knight, who has earned the praises of the Canberra skipper in the off-season.

"He's been playing really well for the Mounties, he's been working really hard and it's a lot of the things off the ball that's helped him get that spot," Croker said of Knight.

"So, I'm excited for Liam, and I'm hoping he goes out there tomorrow and rips in."

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker.
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker. ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

Much has been made of the Raiders' two losses to start the season, especially their execution without the ball.

However, the Raiders say they only need to tinker with their defensive patterns this weekend, not throw out the overall game plan despite leaking 60 points in the first two rounds.

"Defensively we have got the structures we need to stick to and we didn't stick to them last week and that was the result and how they (Knights) got their tries," Croker said.

"We're not going in with the 'she'll be right' attitude that’s for sure, we need to work hard and stick to the principles we've been working on since the start of November.

"We're not sugar coating it, we need to win games, but it's not dramatic changes that need to happen."

Croker also highlighted for his side's need to do the right thing defensively or risk the wrath of the referee's whistle, which saw 19 penalties issued in total in their loss to the Knights.  

"But look if a penalty has to be blown, it has to be blown I guess, it's more of an emphasises on us not to get penalised," he said.

"They've (referees) obviously had a bit of a focus on the play the ball and the line speed around the ruck, but if we do the right thing defensively, we shouldn't be giving away too many penalties."

Meanwhile, Croker has weighed in on the debate if Todd Carney should be allowed to return to the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys this season.

"I think he definitely deserves a chance, hopefully all of that comes to fruition as well," Croker said of his close mate.

"He's been away from his family, which is tough for him because he's such a family man, so being away from them a long time, I know how hard he's worked for himself and his family

"I have seen all of the things he's done, and I'm convinced he's right to go."