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McCrone excited by fresh start at hooker

New Canberra coach Ricky Stuart dangled a big, fat representative jersey carrot in front of Josh McCrone when convincing him to switch to hooker full-time.
McCrone excited by fresh start at hooker
by AAP

By David Barbeler

CANBERRA, Jan 31 AAP - New Canberra coach Ricky Stuart dangled a big, fat representative jersey carrot in front of Josh McCrone when convincing him to switch to hooker full-time.

Stuart, who left Parramatta last season to coach the Raiders following the sacking of David Furner, has wasted no time stamping his authority on his new team, training them in 40C heat and sending them to a week-long elite training camp.

But the iron fist isn't without a velvet glove, with Stuart mentioning the prospect of a No.9 representative jumper to McCrone when they were discussing the benefits of him moving away from halfback.

The former NSW Blues and Australia coach has seen big potential in playing the talented 26-year-old at hooker after several impressive performances there towards the end of the 2013 NRL season.

As a result McCrone - whose rep honours extend to two games for NSW Country - has trained there all pre-season in what is shaping as a permanent shift.

With Robbie Farah and Michael Ennis both 30-year this year, McCrone could time his run into a NSW Blues jumper perfectly in the seasons ahead if he flourishes in the new role.

"Ricky talked to me about it, he did mention the representative stuff. But that doesn't really have a bearing on it all to be honest," McCrone said.

"We've got a few good young kids coming through in the halves, so I'm happy to do what's best for the team."

McCrone's team-first attitude is exactly what you'd expect from the straight talking 26-year-old, who survived a leadership cull by Stuart to stay on as one of four players, along with Terry Campese, Shaun Fensom and Brett White in the senior group.

"It's definitely a fresh start, especially with Ricky being here," he said.

McCrone's shift sets up a fierce battle between incumbent hooker Glen Buttriss, backup Matt McIlwrick, former Broncos youngster Kurt Baptiste and 21-year-old Mitch Cronin.

Buttriss, who's recovered from shoulder surgery and is just eight games away from No.100 for the Raiders, says he's looking forward to the challenge of seeing off his contenders.

"(Ricky) said every position is up for grabs no matter who you are," Buttriss said.

"Everyone's been training well (at hooker), so it's going to be tough."




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