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Croker puts faith in Canberra's youth movement

Canberra co-captain Jarrod Croker is confident the club's 'generation next' are ready for the biggest challenge of their lives when they take on the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

With five club debutants and two NRL debuts named in the 17-man squad for round one, it's the highest number of newcomers the Raiders have fielded in a single game in at least six years.

The closest the club came to matching this weekend's injection of youth and new faces was in 2015, when Blake Austin, Josh Hodgson, Sia Soliola and Sisa Waqa all pulled on the lime green jersey for the first time.

This weekend's crop of fresh talent on paper has an even bigger chance to impact the immediate future of the Raiders.

John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Bailey Simonsson and Corey Horsburgh have all been given the nod by coach Ricky Stuart after impressing during the pre-season.

"There will be plenty of energy and emotion, everybody remembers their debut, so those two boys will nervous and excited," Croker said.

Titans v Raiders - Round 1

"The Pommies (Sutton and Bateman) and Charnze are making their club debuts and the only way to make it special for all of them is to get the win.

"Put it this way, Bailey is playing next to BJ and if he's not relaxed playing there he never will be, so I am sure he will look after him out there."

The Titans have promised to hit the Raiders with an "offensive blitz" through their talented and unpredictable halves pairing of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor.

New Gold Coast recruit Tyrone Peachey will be hoping to pick up where he left off against the Raiders. The former Panther has scored seven tries in his last six games against Canberra.

Defence has been a key point for the Raiders this pre-season, and Croker believes one of the new faces to the side could help nullify the roll-on from the Titans through the middle of the field.

"I think (Corey Horsburgh) he's surprised a lot of people, including me to be honest," he said.

"I saw him a little bit in 20s last year and I could see his worth ethic and his attitude towards defence in pre-season.

"But even in the trial games he jumped out and worked his way to be in front of guys like Luke Bateman, Emre Guler and Royce Hunt, who have all played NRL."

This weekend also marks the first appearance of the year for Joey Leilua, who has recovered from a hamstring strain picked up during pre-season.

"BJ probably would have played 50 or 60 minutes in that trial (against the Bulldogs)," Croker said.

"The only guys who played the 80 was myself and Jacko (Wighton) and it was my first game back and Jack's first game in the halves.

Raiders recruit Ryan Sutton.
Raiders recruit Ryan Sutton. ©

"Personally, it's the best I have seen him train (in the pre-season), it's the best I have seen apply himself and it just excites me."

This season marks the 30th anniversary of Canberra's 1989 premiership-winning team and the club has organised various commemorative events.

Croker knows an uncharacteristic fast-start will build hype around the club.

"There's plenty of motivation - (1989) was a massive year for the club and same this year," Croker said.

"I would love to be in a really good position by round 10 when we have the Old Boys night, to have them really want to come back and watch us that game and move towards finals from there."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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