NRL 2022: Canberra Raiders win 14-4 over Canterbury Bulldogs, Jarrod Croker injury
The Raiders may have the win, but it came at a massive cost with Jarrod Croker suffering a devastating injury blow in his comeback, as their second half woes continued.
A suspected dislocated elbow in the dying minutes of Jarrod Croker’s return to first grade has put a massive dampener on what was a dominating night for the Raiders against the Bulldogs in Canberra.
There may also be some Origin concerns for the Maroons, with Josh Papalii appearing to injure his left knee minutes later. However he would play the match out.
In what could turn out to be a battle for the wooden spoon, the Raiders won 14-4.
Croker was enjoying a solid return to the top level, having made seven runs and a tackle bust when he was injured in an in-goal tackle involving Jordan Rapana and Bulldogs fullback Matt Dufty.
Croker was sucking on the green whistle and his arm slung in his shirt as he walked from the field.
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While the full-time score line was no reflection of the dominating performance the Raiders put on the Bulldogs, the stats do not lie.
The Raiders peppered the Bulldogs line throughout the game, and crossed several times, only to be denied by officials.
They had 56 per cent of possession, played nearly 70 per cent of the game in Bulldogs country, and ran more than 600m more.
They made more than 100 tackles less than the Bulldogs, forced three dropouts, and won the penalty count 7-5.
While Ricky Stuart will no doubt be happy to take the two points, he will no doubt feel this was a missed opportunity to swing some for and against back towards the black.
Stuart said their win against the Bulldogs would “bring some happiness” back into his players lives.
The Green Machine snapped a five-game losing streak to beat the Bulldogs 14-4. He said the Raiders’ senior players had stepped up to keep the playing group motivated.
“Nobody on the outside understands how hard it is, losing five in a row,” he said.
“Our senior players have been instrumental in the last five weeks and keeping everyone upbeat, get to training and start again.
“We don’t like losing, we’re like all our supporters – we don’t go and prepare to lose.”
He said winning on the club’s “Forever Green” weekend – which involved inviting former players to the match and into the dressing rooms – was a bonus.
“(This is) just one game – I’m not saying it’s going to turn everything around, but we’ll have a nice weekend with our old boys and enjoy each other’s company.”
IN THE DOGHOUSE
After a brilliant win against the Roosters last week, this week’s performance could not have been a more stark contrast for the Bulldogs.
The boys from Bellmore were clearly suffering a hangover, and the 14-4 score line was undoubtedly flattering.
Their first half was flat, riddled with errors, and you could throw in some poor discipline as well.
Josh Addo-Carr looked to have crossed twice, but was disallowed both times. Referee Ben Cummins judged he had knocked on an intercept attempt on his own 20m line. Addo-Carr then blew any chance at a captains challenge by running the length of the field. He was denied again on the half-hour mark when the Bunker called an obstruction against Corey Waddell back on half way.
To rub salt into the wound, the Green Machine would open the scoring off the Waddell penalty when Elliot Whitehead muscled his way over on his return from facial surgery.
Pressure continued to build on the Bulldogs shortly after when Waddell was forced back into his in-goal by a five-man tackle from the Raiders. Hudson Young looked to be in again for the Raiders, but the short pass from Matt Frawley was called forward.
Frawley himself was next to score after a great solo effort. Having missed the first, Croker nailed the conversion to put the Raiders 10-nil up – the half time score line.
Jeremy Marshall-King put on report for a trip on the half-hour mark, and Tevita Pangai Jnr was lucky to escape the same fate when he appeared to rub Adam Elliott’s face in a play the ball.Meanwhile, Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett said his side’s error-riddled first half was behind the loss.
The blue and white completed just nine from their first 16 uses of the Steeden, and played nearly 80 per cent of the first 40 minutes inside their own half.
They made seven errors, but only trailed 10-0 at half time.
“There were too many errors … we didn’t give ourselves a chance,” he said.
“In the second half I thought we had our chances again – but we were just impatient and tried to win the game every time we got down there when you don’t have to.”
Citing Tevita Pangai Jnr’s first-half penalty for rubbing his forearm into Adam Elliott’s face, Barrett said it was another example of the players letting themselves down.
“(It’s) a penalty against us when we had the ball … you can’t do that. We’ve got to get that out of our game across the board. You couple that with a few of those unforced errors, it hurt us tonight.
“We need a complete performance and that wasn’t it tonight.”
A SMALL GLIMMER
A turning point for the Bulldogs in the second half was a brilliant knock-back from Brent Naden off a short drop out.
Josh Addo-Carr made a break down the left wing off a Matt Burton chip kick, before the Bulldogs earned their first set restart of the night. Burton capped off the earlier effort by scoring, despite a desperate tackle from Elliot Whitehead and Joseph Tapine.
Addo-Carr was in the mix again when he won the race to the ball from a Burton grubber, but failed to score. It would be the last chance the Bulldogs had to get right back in the game.
RUMBLING ROAR OF EMOTION HERALDS RAIDERS’ FAVOURITE SON’S RETURN
The story goes that everyone from the Raiders mascot, Victor The Viking, to the club janitor, stuck their head outside to see what all the fuss was about.
“The skipper is back, boys,” suspended Raiders star Jack Wighton yelled as he came hurtling through the air and onto the back of Jarrod Croker.
One by one, the Raiders squad charged in to the pile-on, hugging, backslapping, face-rubbing and embracing the club’s greatest-point scorer.
“Everyone was carrying on a bit,” Croker said.
“It was a good feeling. A moment I’ve been hanging to be a part of again.’’
Croker is finally back in the NRL, nine months after his last first-grade appearance and after fearing he may never play rugby league again.
After four tries in six games in the NSW Cup this year, the 31-year-old Raiders captain has been recalled to tackle the Bulldogs at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
There is a sense of timing in his return.
Fittingly, one of Canberra’s greats is back for a game on the same weekend as the club’s 40th anniversary celebrations where a host of old boys will attend.
Croker, who made his debut in 2009 and is nine-games away from the magical 300-game milestone, will one day be standing beside them — but not yet.
Suffering from a debilitating knee injury, which will lead to an eventual full-knee replacement, Croker underwent revolutionary stem-cell treatment in the off-season.
Such was the pain following his final game last August, he could no longer kneel or walk upstairs without crippling pain.
Only a few players have undergone the operation in recent times, with Croker reaching out to former NSW Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson and ex-Roosters captain Boyd Cordner.
Both were able to play-on and excel after the same surgery.
“The back-end of last year was the hardest part of my career, with the unknown,” Croker said.
“Not knowing how I would react to the stem cell was tough.
“The fact that I‘ve been able to play footy and train and enjoy myself, while not playing NRL, to do what I love, has been better than last year when I was thinking, geez, is it all over?
“It’s tough sitting there and wanting to help, but not being able to.
“I spoke to Hodko (Hodkinson) and Boyd and both gave some real confidence.
“The surgery has bought me some time and I’m holding on for dear life.
“I’m moving way better than what I was all last year and it’s been a case of so far so good.
“We’re playing at home on Friday night and what I’ve said to the team is, let’s give these Old Boys something to cheer about.
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“They’re the reason we’re all Raiders so let’s go and put in a performance that shows who we are.
“We’ve got to win this week and get back to singing the team song.’’
Originally published as NRL 2022: Canberra Raiders win 14-4 over Canterbury Bulldogs, Jarrod Croker injury