JARROD Croker is racing the clock in a bid to line up for the Raiders on his home turf at Workers Arena.
The Stockmen junior feared for the worst when he dropped to the ground in pain after twisting his right knee in a tackle against the Melbourne Storm in a trial match at Geelong on Friday.
Medical staff believe Croker suffered a minor medial ligament strain, placing in danger his chances of lining up for the Raiders against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Goulburn on Saturday-week.
It’s likely he’ll opt out of playing on his home patch if it means ensuring he’s right to face the Penrith Panthers in the NRL opening on March 10.
Croker, the NRL’s leading point-scorer in 2012, is a key cog in the Raiders machine.
Coach David Furner will take no outlandish risks in order to make sure the 22-year-old takes the field against the Panthers.
There was a moment when Croker thought his season was over before it started.
“I’ve done a similar thing before,” he said to the Canberra Times on Saturday.
“At first I panicked and thought I’d done something worse, but once I got up and knew I could walk over to the other side of the ground and walk off, I knew it wasn’t as bad as first thought.
“I was in a fair bit of pain initially, and in a bit of panic and shock.”
Croker said while the opportunity to lineup in front of supporters in his home town was one to cherish, it wasn’t worth risking the season-opener.
“It’d be nice to play there and I’ve been looking forward to it a fair bit, but if it’s not 100 per cent I’m not going to play just because it’s my home town,” Croker said.
“The way the boys played [on Friday] night, we’ve got plenty of depth by the look of things, so that’s not an issue for us. I hate missing any sort of footy, so that’s the aim.”
While one local is in doubt for Goulburn, another remains in line to play.
Mitchell Cornish featured for the Raiders against the Storm in Geelong and finished the match injury-free. The club’s under 20s skipper has trained with the top squad for the bulk of the pre-season and was rewarded for his persistence with a start against the reigning premiers in the unfamiliar position of dummy-half.
He’s odds-on to again play for Canberra when they tackle the Bulldogs on February 23.
Coach David Furner yesterday named an extended squad for the match. With a near clean bill of health in the wash-up to the Storm match and the NRL season fastapproaching, it’s probable the Raiders will feature a close to full-strength team.
The Bulldogs, meantime, are still smarting from last year’s 14-4 grand final defeat at the hands of the Storm.
With flyers Josh Morris and Ben Barba and big boppers Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood at their disposal, the grand finalists are set to entertain what’s expected to be a capacity