Raiders remain focused, with faith in Ferguson

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker said suspended teammate Blake Ferguson had the support of the squad and his Origin dumping would not be a distraction ahead of Saturday’s NRL match against the Wests Tigers.

Croker said he was also aiming to nurse his injured knee through the next three games until Canberra’s next bye – possibly with injections – as the Raiders search to sign backline re-enforcements prior to the June 30 registration deadline.

The Raiders have been talking behind the scenes with backline players at rival NRL clubs, including discussions with Penrith’s Travis Robinson, twin brother of Raiders fullback Reece Robinson.

It’s understood the Raiders have made an offer to Robinson, but the Raiders have not been able to persuade any of their NRL rivals to release players mid-season.

The Raiders have also assisted the switch of Jordan Rapana from rugby union back to rugby league, the former Gold Coast Titans winger debuting in the local Canberra Raiders Cup competition last weekend. But his potential transition to NRL is still considered a longer term project.

Ferguson’s NRL-imposed suspension of a minimum four weeks has put extra pressure on Canberra’s already depleted backline.

Winger Edrick Lee is out for up to three months with a broken arm. Canberra junior Sami Sauiluma will debut on the wing on Saturday.

Ferguson won’t be available for the Raiders until at least the round 19 match against the Parramatta Eels, pending the outcome of his indecent assault charge. The NRL’s integrity unit must also be satisfied with his progress in alcohol counselling.

Croker said the Raiders players supported the club’s decision not to sack Ferguson and said the off-field distractions would not be an excuse against the Tigers on Saturday.

‘‘Blake’s obviously a teammate and a good mate as well, so I hope the club sticks by him,’’ Croker said.

‘‘We [the players] haven’t really sat down and talked about it all. What the NRL does and the Raiders does is up to them, we just stand by that.

‘‘I don’t think it’ll be too much of a distraction for us …. we’ll get on with the job.’’

Asked if Ferguson had let down  his teammates by drinking in Cronulla on the eve of Origin camp and and getting suspended, Croker said: ‘‘Blake’s 23-years-old, he can make his decisions. I’m just more disappointed by the fact he won’t be out there for the Blues next week.’’

Croker limped off early for the second straight match in last weekend’s win over Penrith. His knee has been an ongoing concern all year.

Despite missing training earlier in the week, Croker said he was aiming to play on and manage the injury.

‘‘I had a little bit of a scare there … but I’m right to go,’’ Croker declared, saying he could have played on if required.

‘‘Hopefully it gets better with time. We had the bye week [round 12] and it really recovered well then, and we’ve got another bye coming up [round 18]. Whether we look into injections or anything just to tighten it up. It’s not a massive niggling injury, but it’s a bit frustrating. I’m just trying to keep it right and manage it.’’

Croker played down talk of a backline crisis.

‘‘We’ve still got a fair backline … we’re going to have plenty of energy and enthusiasm so I don’t think we’ll be lacking anything out wide.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.