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In a series analysing who will line up in each position for all 16 teams in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership in 2021, NRL.com looks at the Canberra Raiders.

NRL.com says: Skipper Jarrod Croker will miss the first few rounds due to shoulder surgery, with Matt Timoko or Harley Smith-Shields likely to fill the breach.

With Josh Hodgson pushing to return from a knee reconstruction as early as round one, 2020 breakout star Tom Starling will be hard to leave off the bench – particularly while Hodgson builds confidence back in that knee.

Either way there will be a welcome headache for coach Ricky Stuart with a host of high-calibre middle forwards in Corey Horsburgh, Sia Soliola, Ryan Sutton, Emre Guler and new recruit Ryan James vying for two or three spots.

Corey Harawira-Naera shapes as the logical starting replacement for John Bateman given his strong 2020 performances and Hudson Young's impressive stints as a middle rather than edge forward.

Jamie Soward says: I think they're going to be the one of the favourites. There's some stuff that didn't go their way this year. They were grand finalists a year earlier then lost Josh Hodgson.

They are in the top two or three teams in the comp even without Bateman and Cotric. For the first time in a long time the Raiders have some solid depth with Caleb Aekins, Emre Guler, Siliva Havili, Ryan James all potentially missing out in round one.

There's some quality depth for spots which will make them hungry so they might almost enter the season favourites.