John Bateman has helped harden Canberra’s edge. Picture: Dean Lewins
John Bateman has helped harden Canberra’s edge. Picture: Dean Lewins

Croker reveals changes that rebuilt Green Wall

CANBERRA co-captain Jarrod Croker has pinpointed two key defensive changes for adding a new-found steel to the Raiders game.

Croker said the signing of John Bateman plus the inclusion of Jack Wighton in the frontline had helped revamp the side's defence. The Raiders conceded 22.5 points a game last year. That number has dropped to 15.1 this year.

"We've always been good mates but the will to win and desire I keep pointing at Johnny Bateman," Croker said.

 

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"He has brought hunger out of the English guys and all of us. I look at Jacko (Wighton) in the frontline of defence. They are the two key areas defensively which I've noticed turned us around this year."

While Croker could sense in the pre-season this Raiders side was different to recent seasons it wasn't until a couple of huge defensive efforts which confirmed the differences to him.

They kept  Gold Coast scoreless in the opening round of the season and did it again to Parramatta in round five. They also shut-out the Tigers in round 13.

"The first five weeks we held two sides scoreless," Croker said. "There was a steeliness in defence. Once that happened I knew we were a different Raiders side. We are working hard for each other.

Jarrod Croker pinpoints where Canberra’s defence has changed in 2019. Picture: Brendon Thorne
Jarrod Croker pinpoints where Canberra’s defence has changed in 2019. Picture: Brendon Thorne

"We won a lot of games this year, scrambling and scrapping. That's what wins you big games. These boys don't stop working for each other. You get what you work for. We've worked that hard for this."

Croker has been the face of the Raiders for so long. He is now in his 11th season and will play in his first premiership decider.

Jack Wighton’s frontline switch has helped the defensive resilience. Picture: Rohan Thompson
Jack Wighton’s frontline switch has helped the defensive resilience. Picture: Rohan Thompson

"I'm a little bit overwhelmed," Croker said. "I'm happy for these boys. Blokes like Pappa (Josh Papalii) and Jack have been here as long as I have.

"I love Canberra. Everywhere I go it's been green coffee, doughnuts, muffins, pasta. Everything was green. I love this place. These guys deserve it as much as we do. It's been a long time since we were in a grand final."