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Young Raiders ready to step up as knee injury clouds Croker's future

Canberra captain Jarrod Croker may not play again this season if the Raiders miss the finals due to a debilitating knee injury that has ruled him out of Friday night’s clash with Manly and cast doubts over his long-term future.

Croker has been battling a troublesome knee problem since early this season and after suffering a shoulder injury in round seven against the Cowboys, he underwent platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment while sidelined for nine weeks.

The 30-year-old centre returned in round 16 and has played all seven matches since but required another PRP injection last Friday and is now expected to be sidelined for at least the next two weeks as he recovers.

Canberra's greatest ever pointscorer and tryscorer is then likely to need a week of training to prepare for a return to playing, ruling him out until the finals if the Raiders can make it that far.

A decision on whether Croker, who is under contract for two more years and has an option for 2024, requires surgery is expected to made at the end of the season.

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“He had a PRP injection as late as last Friday and it just pulled up a little bit sore because of the loads so I have given him this week off,” Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.

“It’s not surgery at this moment, but it is something that we talk about with [head physiotherapist Konrad [Schultz] and our doctor Greg MacLeod. The physical welfare of Jarrod’s knee is something we take into great consideration

“It is a matter of sitting down and going through it, which we are, with our medical advice. It is common knowledge that Jarrod has an ongoing knee issue and it is something we take great consideration in regards to the care for him physically and long term.”

Fellow centre Curtis Scott, who hasn’t played since round 10, appeared before the club’s board via video on Wednesday over an off-field incident but no decision was made on his future.  

The Raiders are well stocked for young talent to cover for Croker’s absence, with Seb Kris, Matt Timoko and Harley Smith-Shields all comfortable in the centre role.

Kiwis international Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad can also play in the centres and he will make a welcome return at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night after injuring his neck in the round five clash with Penrith.

Stuart said he didn’t know what role Nicoll-Klokstad would be used from the interchange but he wants to give the star fullback about 25 minutes if possible.

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Matt Frawley has also been named on the bench after the season-ending knee injury sustained by back-up dummy half Tom Starling and it is likely he will come on at hooker with Josh Hodgson shifting to lock.

"It’s great to have Charnze back because we have used four fullback and it has really knocked us about this year,” Stuart said.

“He was ready to start and that is a sign of his professionalism and his commitment to the team but I showed loyalty to the players who have been doing the job before him. He has been out for a number of weeks, so it is a really good opportunity to slowly progress him back into the game.”

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After winning three consecutive matches against Manly, Cronulla and Parramatta, Canberra went down 26-16 to Melbourne last week but remain in the hunt for a finals berth in ninth place on 20 points.

Stuart admitted the Raiders had lost their ‘mojo” earlier in the season when they celebrated just two wins in 11 weeks but he said the resilience of the squad had got them through that period and they were now focused on beating the Sea Eagles, Warriors and Roosters to ensure a finals berth.

“I can feel the want,” Stuart said. “When you want something bad enough it is a wonderful feeling to have.

“You can see throughout this season the adversity that we have been playing under, like a lot of other teams have, but certain teams do crumble where we don’t crumble. We fill the jumper and we do what is needed.”

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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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