New recruit Lachlan Croker has wasted little time in making an early impression at the Sea Eagles.
The former Canberra Raiders five-eighth/half took out two of the three 2km time trials over the past few days in the first week of pre-season training for 2018. Croker is not related to Canberra centre Jarrod Croker but is the nephew of former Raiders player Jason Croker.
Croker (pictured) beat home half-back Daly Cherry-Evans in the first two runs before the experienced Manly captain took out the final time trial run. The first week of training also included skills and gym sessions.
Their efforts were not lost on Sea Eagles Coach Trent Barrett for different reasons, with Barrett praising Cherry-Evans for returning to training a week earlier than expected. Players with three years or less of first grade experience return in week one.
“It was certainly a good sign of Lachlan’s fitness as Daly is an exceptional athlete,’’ Barrett said.
“Lachlan will want to keep training because knowing Daly, the next time they do the 2km time trials, the situation may be reversed. ‘Chez’ is very competitive and prides himself on that.
“It was a big effort by Daly. The senior players, except for those in the World Cup, are not back till next week but he wanted to be there on day one to show that we are all in this together.
“I thought it was a good gesture from him because it wasn’t an easy day. He is leading by example.
“It was the same with Darcy Lussick. He came in too when he didn’t have to come back yet.
“Curtis Sironen came back in really good shape. He has obviously been training during the break.
“Brian Kelly is miles in front of where he was last year. Shaun Lane has also come back in really good condition."
Barrett said he was pleased with the attitudes of new recruits in forwards Jack Gosiewski (Souths) and Toafofoa Sipley (Warriors), and former Cronulla U20s Half-back Luke Metcalf.
“Apart from being very fit, Lachlan has shown he has a lot of ability. He has already played first grade and has played a fair bit of senior footy for such a young bloke.
“Luke looks set to start off in the 20s next year. He has got blinding speed and is a real player of the future, so it is a good experience for him to be around the senior blokes.
“Jack is in good shape. I have a lot of hope for him as an edge back-rower. He is an athletic young bloke.
“Toafofoa is doing well. He has got a bit of a look about him. The biggest thing for him is to get as fit as he can.
“I am really happy with those four guys. They have all turned up to week one in good shape and have fitted in really well.
“The biggest thing for me was they have all said how close the group is and how well everyone gets along.
“It is important that they feel comfortable. It is good to hear from an outsider coming in that they think that about the group straight away.
In a further sign of the close bond between the playing group, injured Sea Eagles centre Dylan Walker and Kangaroos forward Jake Trbojevic have been supporting their team-mates from the sidelines.
“Jake and Dylan have been in every day and they don’t have to be, so that’s good stuff from them,’’ Barrett said.
“You can already see from the time Jake spent in the Australian camp how much he has grown as a leader.
“His presence around the place, as well as Dylan’s, is really positive.”