Croker calls on middle forwards to give big Junior a hand

LEADING MAN: Junior Paulo (pictured) has been huge in Shannon Boyd's absence, but  Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker says he needs support from the other forwards. Photo: GETTY IMAGES
LEADING MAN: Junior Paulo (pictured) has been huge in Shannon Boyd's absence, but Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker says he needs support from the other forwards. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker says the Penrith Panthers is a must-win game and he's called on his middle forwards to give Junior Paulo a hand at Bathurst on Saturday.

Croker said big bopper Paulo can't do any more than he's been doing in a strong start to the season.

With Shannon Boyd out indefinitely due to a medial strain and the loss of Dunamis Lui for the rest of the season, Croker feels it’s up to the likes of Joe Tapine, Clay Priest and Luke Bateman - who's returning from a thumb injury - to carry the big load normally shouldered by Boyd.

Paulo's been impressive so far this campaign and was unlucky not to get a State of Origin call-up for NSW.

Boyd's absence further emphasises Paulo's importance for the Green Machine.

With Boyd and Lui out, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has named "Mr Fix It" Sia Soliola to start in the front row alongside Paulo, with Bateman returning to start at lock.

Priest, Tapine and debutant Royce Hunt were named on the bench, although Dave Taylor has been named in the 21 and could still come into the 17 having overcome chickenpox and a niggling calf injury.

"Priesty and Joe Tapine and Bato coming back in, I think they need to [pick up the load. With] Roycey on debut, they're going to have to help him out as well as step up a little bit," Croker said.

"It's hard to ask for much more out of Junior. He's playing massive, massive minutes for a big boy and he's been one of our best.

"Guys like Priesty and Joey, they can look to step it up a bit. They can look at getting a bit more game time as well with Boydy out."

The Raiders are looking to bounce back from a heart-breaking golden-point loss to Manly on the weekend and take a win into their bye.

They then face Brisbane and North Queensland at home before their next bye and Croker felt it was massively important to start that run off with a win.

"It's a must-win [game]. We want to keep in touch with that top eight and we've got a few home games coming up, we've got a bye two games and a bye," Croker said.

"Those two games are Brisbane and the Cowboys at home so we need a win and get a bit of momentum into that bye.”

  • CANBERRA RAIDERS: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker, 4 Joey Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Junior Paulo, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Sia Soliola, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Luke Bateman; Interchange from: 14 Adam Clydsdale, 15 Royce Hunt, 16 Clay Priest, 17 Joe Tapine, 18 Scott Sorensen, 19 Brent Naden, 20 Dave Taylor, 21 Kurt Baptiste.
This story Croker calls on middle forwards to give big Junior a hand first appeared on Central Western Daily.