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Green Machine's depth reminds Croker of sweet '16 surge

Co-captain Jarrod Croker has likened Canberra's playing depth to that of the club's last great charge towards the grand final, as the Raiders enter a crucial section of the season, starting on Saturday against Canterbury.

The Raiders have been decimated in recent weeks with the loss of players to long-term injuries being compounded by three State of Origin representatives - Josh Papalii, Nick Cotric and Jack Wighton - also becoming unavailable.

Croker said the crop of young talent and veterans such as Aidan Sezer coming into the side will be up to task of snapping a three-game losing streak when they take on the Bulldogs.

"We've seen in the last couple of years our depth has probably been tested with only a couple of injuries.

"But to have seven or eight out with injuries and Origin and to field a side that looks quite strong on paper is a positive.

"Our last really strong season we had Shaun Fensom and Paul Vaughan who couldn't make our starting side, that was the depth we had back then and it's the sort of depth we needed this year.

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"It's nice to be able to throw guys like that in there, Sez has got a lot of NRL experience and has been around a long time.

"I'm confident he'll just slot straight in there and combination-wise, I'm sure it will be fine."

Saliva Havili will be called on again to be an 80-minute player from starting hooker for the injured Josh Hodgson.

Seb Kris will earn his first NRL start after earning his stripes off the bench in the round-10 loss to South Sydney and Tom Starling will also made his Raiders debut at Telstra Premiership level this weekend after playing one NRL game last year for Newcastle in 2018.

"I think with a lot of young boys with minimal first grade experience, guys like Tommy Starling making his first grade debut this week, we have to draw on all of the experience we can," Sezer said.

"It's unfortunate Hodgo went down last week with his thumb but for Tom to get his opportunity is what he's all about and I hope he goes well."

Sezer also downplayed the possible disruptive impact of a new hooker and five-eighth for the clash with the Bulldogs, saying the work done before the season should ensure an improved attack for the Raiders.

"It's nothing foreign to me, we trained together all pre-season and I have played a bit if footy so it's not new to us, so hopefully we can get a good result.

"It's been very challenging for me to say the least (time out of NRL), but I've been going back there and enjoying my footy with the Mounties, so I've got the opportunity hopefully I can put in a good performance.

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"I've been around for a while now, I'm not a young fella, so hopefully I can draw on experience."

In a further boost for the Raiders, English star John Bateman was back at training after spending three weeks back home after recovering from surgery to his broken cheekbone.

Despite being named on the extended bench, Croker downplayed the chances of an early comeback for Bateman.

"It's not something you'd risk and being around the eye it could be dangerous," he said.

"He's seeing the specialist this week and if you're hedging your bets, if he has to wait another week or two it's better not to risk it."

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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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