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Manly utility Lachlan Croker.

He grew up as a halfback, but Manly's Lachlan Croker is finding footy more fun among the forwards.

The 24-year-old utility, who played every game in 2020, told NRL.com he'd "done a lot of work in the middle this pre-season".

After spending much of last season coming off the bench at hooker, and with a logjam in the halves, Croker is one of the candidates for the No.9 jersey following Danny Levi's departure.

Kieran Foran, who is locked in battle with Josh Schuster for the five-eighth spot, and Cade Cust are other dummy-half options.

Manase Fainu remains under the NRL's no fault stand-down policy as he awaits a court appearance.

While none of the available options started their careers as genuine rakes, Croker is loving his development under coach Des Hasler.

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"There's a lot of good halves at this club at the moment. That is what it is, and I've been enjoying playing in the middle probably more than I have been in the halves the last couple of years," Croker said.

"It's an exciting time for me to try something new. It's one of those things where I get to learn more than I would've playing in the halves because it's a totally new concept to me. It's been good, it's been a good learning curve but I'm really excited by it.

"Being a half prior [to the move], I know I can understand how a half wants the ball from me because I've been in that position."

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Unsigned for 2022, Croker said he hadn't begun negotiations about a new deal but wanted to stay on the Northern Beaches, which he described as "the best place in the world to live".

"I love it here ... Dessie and the coaching staff have been nothing but really positive and supportive of me, [and] the S&Cs [strength and conditioning coaches]," Croker said. 

While the Sea Eagles are coming off a tough year, finishing 13th amid a horror injury toll, it was a personal success for Croker in the fact he completed the full season for the first time in senior football.

By his count, he hadn't gone through a campaign without missing a match since his under 16s days.

Croker, a Raiders junior, has now made 33 NRL appearances despite ACL and hamstring injuries holding him back in the past.

"It's torture, mate," he said of his lengthy stints in rehab.

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"Anyone would tell you, it's just such a lonely place. You go from training with 30 blokes every day to training with maybe one or two. And then some days you're on your own, just you and a rehab coach.

"You feel so out of it. It's no one's fault. It's just how it is. You've just got to have good people around you and have people to go home to because it's a really low time for a lot of footballers ... Fingers crossed we stay away from that for a long while and play some footy."

Sea Eagles in 2021

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