The group and coaches have been meeting with a sports psychologist every fortnight and Croker believes the result of those sessions will be on display in round one.
“It’s going to help, no doubt,” Croker told The Canberra Times.
“We’ve got some players in key positions in that group as well, our halves, hooker, and our middles as well, some players there that have a lot of pressure on them when it comes to those [tight game] situations.
“So for those blokes to be in there learning about it and working on how we can be better in those situations is only going to be beneficial for the team.
“I can’t just nail one thing we’ve been learning, it’s a slow process, we’re doing meetings fortnightly at the moment and we’re learning a lot of different things.
“It’s about being better as a group and growing as individuals. There are a few little game experiences in there we’re trying to work on as well but overall it’s just about growing as a squad, and in [Club] 82 we want to be leaders on the field and off the field.”
“It’s something we work a lot on and talk about a lot. We try to practice it, but it’s hard to practice it until you’re out there in the moment,” Croker said.
“There was a perfect example there on Saturday [against the Bulldogs] when we scored the last try and were up by six with two minutes to go.
“We got the ball and took four tackles then Jacko [Jack Wighton] kicked it out five metres out from their try line, that’s perfect game management.
“You can practice it all you want at training but it’s a lot harder to do in a game and I thought Saturday was a good start.
“Whether it’s a trial or not it’s nice to have that winning feeling. There were a lot of positives; we fought back really well and did the little things well.”
Stuart has given his leaders more responsibility this season and asked they make their teammates more accountable in everything from work rate to behaviour outside the club.
Croker said the group jumped at Stuart’s request and he backed the immensely talented but highly unpredictable centre, Joey Leulia, to thrive in the new culture.
“Joey has been great, he’s been really good in the preseason and is probably as fit and strong as I’ve seen him,” Croker said.
“He’s as committed as I’ve ever seen, he’s ripping into the work and I know he’s looking forward to getting out there.
“I’m hoping for a big year from Joey. We know what he can be when he’s on his game, and I’m confident he’s in the right headspace and ready to play his best footy because when Joey plays his best footy, we’re pretty hard to stop.”
The Raiders don’t have any more trials and kick-off their season away against the Gold Coast Titans on March 17.
NRL ROUND ONE
March 17: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at the Gold Coast, 6.10pm.
Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times