CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Joseph Leilua of the Raiders celebrates scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Canberra’s star centres set for stellar season


This time last year, it was unsure whether Joey Leilua would find a place in the Canberra Raider’s backline. By season’s end, he was the reigning Dally M Centre of the Year. Jarrod Croker twelve months ago, fresh off his first season as club captain, had people doubting his leadership skills as well as the defensive game. In 2016, he ended the season as Dally M Captain of the Year. After the Raiders fell agonisingly short of a grand final berth this season, Canberra’s new favourite duo will be back in 2017 – with a premiership in sight.

While both stars achieved stardom this season, the centres had very different beginnings to their careers. Croker was always destined for a career with Canberra. Born in Goulburn, Croker was signed by Canberra in his mid-teens. Debuting in 2009, Croker has played 191 games for the club, and in 2016, became the club’s highest-ever point scorer with 1424 points. Despite representing Country Origin and the NRL All Stars as well as becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer, being named the captain of the club at the start of 2015 season would be the career highlight for Croker.

Joseph Leilua had a much different pathway to the Raiders compared to his counterpart. Playing in the juniors for St George Illawarra, the blockbusting centre was picked up by the Sydney Roosters at the start of the 2010 season. Leilua made his NRL debut in that season, even featuring in the 2010 NRL Grand Final, which the Roosters would lose to his junior club, the St George Illawarra Dragons. His career with the Roosters was ended abruptly in 2012 following allegations of Leilua sending explicit pictures of his ex-girlfriend to her brother, the Samoan international signed on with the Newcastle Knights.

Despite being contracted to the end of 2016, Leilua literally walked out on the club mid-2015, his departure announced by a video posted by Frank Pritchard on Instagram. Since signing on with Canberra mid-2015, he has been a revelation for the nation’s capital, forming a dynamic combination with Kiwi international Jordan Rapana.

Forcing their way into the NSW Blues side is no easy feat, with the likes of Michael Jennings, Josh Dugan, Josh Morris, Jack Bird and Jarryd Hayne all in contention for the centre spots. Though with the form they displayed this year for Canberra, there’s no reason they can’t overcome their competitors to feature for the Blues.

Not only did Croker and Leilua end the season with respective Dally M accolades, both featured in the Kangaroo’s wider train-on squad for the Four Nations before being cut from the final 24-man squad. The two centres will begin Canberra’s premiership push in Round One, a blockbuster match against North Queensland at 1300SMILE Stadium, pitting the two preliminary finalists against each other in a game full of tantalising match-ups.


36 COMMENTS

  1. SSTID, I googled your username purely because I wanted to see it for myself. That’s weird as hell. I golfed mine and it has my username for a couple of things m, but then there’s a reddit user with the same username who has some really weird comments. Then I googled believethis and Ronald_M and nothing good popped up, then I googled Silvertail47 and it came up with an Instagram account full of pictures of My Little Pony.

  2. “My Little Pony”… Bahahahahahahaha! I’m in stitches. Funniest thing I’ve heard all week! st47, your secret is out, you little softy you. 😉

  3. Raiders
    Storm
    Panthers
    Cowboys
    Roosters
    Sharks
    Titans
    Warriors
    Eels
    Broncos
    Sea Eagles
    Tigers
    Dragons
    Rabbitohs
    Knights

    • If this is the order you think the teams will finish this year, will you have a slab of whatever that Souths don’t finish second last?

      • They are just fishing, they would have put Souths last but that would have given it away. I’d up that bet Souths won’t finish in the bottom 5, easy!

        • I hate lists and I don’t make predictions, and I know he is fishing, but you can tell quite easily ”clinton” knows nothing about rugby league.

        • But he knows how to catch a fish! 😉

          I wouldn’t say clinton knows nothing about rugby league. He knows 15 teams at least! Poor Bulldogs though don’t seem to rate a mention (unless he things they will go broke and be relegated to NSW Cup!

          The Roosters won’t make the 8 with the spine they have, the Warriors will look good but fade late as always and just miss the 8. The Rabbitohs will be there for sure (possibly top 6) the Titans are my dark horse and will make the 8 for sure (maybe top 4) and the Dogs and Broncos will fight for 7th position with the loser fighting the Warrirors, Eels and Sea Eagles for 8th place. How’s that for a prediction!

  4. Jennings is past it and won’t trouble anyone for a NSWs spot. And Morris just isn’t looking like pushing for a spot again, looks out of favour plus better centres out there same with Brett Morris. Backline for NSW has a lot of options this year, Daley better not stuff up again and select players like Hopoate and Jennings.

    1- J Tedesco, M Moylan, J Hayne, T Trbojevic, J Dugan
    2- T Trbojevic
    3- J Bird, J Dugan, D Walker, J Croker
    4- J Hayne, J Leilua
    5- B Ferguson, J Dugan

    Competition for spots is high, hopefully force players to perform. (I left Manosur out becuase he won’t be ready to go straight back to origin but when he is Ferguson is dropped)

    • Future looks pretty bright looking at that list. Not sure I would be so fast to write off B-Moz though. Champion player who, with a bit of luck with injuries, will be pushing his case again. Agree about Josh Morris though, we need someone who sets up tries as well as stopping the other team from scoring.

      • I disagree regarding Josh Morris. Sure I don’t think he will be selected again, but he is one of the few centres in the game that was able to somewhat silence Inglis.

    • 1- J Tedesco
      2- J Hayne
      3- J Dugan
      4- J Bird
      5- B Ferguson
      6- J Maloney
      7- A Reynolds

      14- M Moylan

      Even Mal picked Dugan, and Fergusion in the Test side. I don’t see Hayne as a centre, it would be wing, or fullback.

      • FB and halves are spot on Rabbits. Cleary needs at least one more year (possibly two) in first grade to prove he is ready to step up to that level.

        The outside backs are going to be the hardest to pick (especially when Mansour is fit as he is an automatic selection).

        Hayne, Leilua, Bird, Dugan all competing for 2 centre positions.

        While Mansour (injured), TommyT, BMoz, Ferguson all competing for positions on the wing (even Alex Johnson may come into calculation IF he refinds his 2014 form). Hayne has lost too much pace to play on the wing at that level and would be under-utilised in any case.

        That leaves Moylan (who IS a good player) in a difficult position IF Bird doesn’t crack a start at centre because he is an automatic selection as a reserve outside back who can cover lock with Peachy next in line.

        Tough choices ahead for Daley and Sterlo!

        Btw, my tips for centre and wing are the first two names on each list with Bird as impact off the bench or starting instead of Hayne if Hayne is out of form. Dugan and Ferguson were great against weaker opposition playing for Australia but they struggle to impress against QLD. Dugan may be a safe option but Ferguson has had too many chances.

  5. Tom Turbos overrated, and Leilua and Croker unlucky to miss out.
    1. Tedesco
    2. B Moz
    3. Hayne
    4. Dugan
    5. Fergo

    • Seriously, calling trbojevic overrated is silly. Considering what he has done already with a serious ankle injury he should be underrated. I don’t how you can call him overrated, even unbiased fans will tell you he is not overrated. Your probably just fishing but you got a bite! I know it’s your opinion but your opinion is so horribly Wrong!

    • Tommy t overrated hahaha the kid was injured and still performed really well and in a team with a massive injury toll. wait till he strikes up combos with the set spine and walker in the centers. he’s only a kid I noticed you put Dugan and Ferguson there now these guys are overrated.

  6. Raiders have the team to win a gf really it’s upto them to take it. No injuries and I believe it’s theirs. great players for supercoach

    • It all depends on Hodgson repeating his 2016 form and whether or not lightning can strike twice with Leipana! That and they need to find where to play Wighton (because he isn’t a FB). Can Austin play FB? If yes, then stick Wighton at 5/8 and it will be a better structured team IMO.

        • Definitely get rid of Edrick Lee! He single-handedly cost the Raiders a shot at the GF in 2016. Wighton is a good player make no mistake, but he is NOT a FB. He would be a good centre or grow to be a good 5/8. Austin has the flair to make a difference at FB but it is a specialist position with a LOT of pressure.

        • Got to admit, I’m glad Lee dropped those 4 or 5 balls that would’ve likely led to tries.

          I just don’t rate Wighton at all, and besides he wouldn’t make it into the centres with Leilua and Croker there, and I still wouldn’t play him at five eighth. I like the idea of Austin at fullback, they could bring in Lachlan Croker to play five eighth with Sezer at halfback (or swap them around). Lee would have to work hard on catching this season to stay in the spot, they could bring up Santo or Otto onto the wing as well. Raiders do have some really good depth when you think about it.

        • One of the tries Lee bombed was a pass right in front of him at chest height, not thrown hard… just catch and fall down, try! YOU could have scored that one trollz. No excuse for that one. The intercept try opportunity was also one that most good wingers would have eaten up.

          As for Austin at FB, there there are still many other factors to consider. Can he consistently catch a high ball under pressure? Can he read unfolding attacking plays and help to direct his teams defensive line accordingly? Does he have an understanding of positional play both defensively as well as for kick returns? If yes to all of these I think he would be a very good choice for FB but then Wighton should get a crack at 5/8. Defensively (man on man) I think Austin would go OK btw.

        • Yeah Wighton would be a good centre but he is one of the worst fullbacks going round. He has no skills other than speed and size. Put him in the centres.

Comments are closed.