He carries with him a famous last name (although not closely related to the Canberra superstar 'Jason') Jarrod Croker is the complete Rugby League player. The young captain is leading the new crop of Raiders and together with Ricky Stuart they are trying to return the 'Green Machine' to the glory days of the late 80's early 90's.
"He is the size of hooker who plays like a second five eighth in the centres."
Croker was born in Goulburn, NSW and made his debut for the Canberra Raiders as a fresh faced 19 year old in 2009. Most known for his goal kicking ability, Croker taught himself the art of kicking by collecting foam coffee cups at a local soccer oval and turning them into kicking tees.
Practicing from a very early age Croker didn't get the chance to start kicking for the Raiders until the 1st string kicker, Campese, suffered an injury in 2010. Since then Croker has been the mainstay and has become the greatest point scorer in Raiders history.
Free from injury and because he started his first grade career at such a young age, Croker now has the chance to become the NRLs greatest point scorer in history. At only 25 he has already racked up 1324 first grade points. If he scores an average of 180 points per season (which by the way is well below his average as he has already scored 198 points this season), it would only take him 6 more seasons to usurp Hasem El Maseri who holds the record at 2418 points.
The other record not so far in the distance is the most games played. Currently held by Darren Lockyer at 355, Croker has already racked up 182 first grade games. At 20 games (conservatively) per season it would be a tick past his 33rd birthday for him to reach this mark. Although the way he stays injury free he could top this record much earlier.
That been said there is much more to the game of Jarrod Croker than a handy boot. What makes Croker so good is his consistency and his attacking prowess. At only 6ft1inch you wouldn't expect him to be a game breaker, however Croker is consistently in the top echelon for line breaks. He also consistently challenges for most tries in a season (this year he sits 3rd with 14). He possesses deceptive pace and can step of both feet. He also has an excellent passing game and can pass from both sides of his body. Lately he has added an AFL style mark to his kit bag scoring plenty of points off cross kicks for the Raiders. He is the size of hooker who plays like a second five eighth in the centres.
What makes Croker one of the games elite though, is his level head and consistency. He is part of that select group of players that can keep their cool when the pressure is on. He is the 'go to' for the Raiders when everything is going against them and they need a solution. He has the ability to keep his young, often brash side under wraps and all moving as one, reminding me of an old wise Lion leading around a young pride of rambunctious cubs. Finally, he shows up and plays every week, every game for every minute. If he played in the 80's Croker would have made a fitting poster boy for the Tina Turner Rugby League campaign of 'What you get is what you see".
It amazes me that Jarrod Croker still has not played for his state or his country. He has been on the fringe for many years, playing in the Prime Ministers XIII, NRL (World) All Stars and Country Origin. Everyone is talking about either Boyd Cordner or Aaron Woods to take over NSW in 2017 (following the retirement of Gallen). If you ask me (taking nothing away from Cordner and Woods), Croker is the perfect ready made replacement captain. He is almost a 200 game NRL veteran with at least 5 more years in the game and his leadership and composure under pressure make him perfect for Origin. I am totally baffled by this and I certainly hope for his, and the games sake, that he isn't one of those players that were always good enough but never get their shot.
Maybe with a few Origin players under injury clouds or out of form, come October and Four Nations time Croker might just get a go in the green and gold.
Maybe it's his humble nature and like able character, but I can't think of a more fitting candidate to lead the Green Machine to a premiership. With the side they have and the team believing in the Ricky Stuart formula, they should be in that window within 3 years. Once that is ticked off Croker can continue on the path to breaking every record in the game of Rugby League, and I can't think of anyone more fitting to do so.
Each week until the end of the season I will be doing a 'Player in Focus' piece. If you have a favourite player that you would like an article on, you can comment at the Zerotackle Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/zerotackle/ or tweet me @darrinseath.
Bring on September.