Canberra Raiders lion-hearted centre Jarrod Croker has never quite received the promotions deserved with his ability and commitment to the team.
But after 116 NRL caps in just five years, the 23-year old was been called upon to captain a young Raiders squad bound for the Auckland Nines preseason tournament.
And the desired result was forthcoming.
The club never prioritised the tournament, with Coach Ricky Stuart opting to give his younger men a run in the event.
Croker, fullback Reece Robinsion, hooker Glen Buttris, and forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs were the only experienced campaigners to head across the Tasman.
Lagi Setu, Mitch Cronin, Mitch Cornish, Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn, Andrew Heffernan all debuted for a Raiders first grade squad, with Bateman and Heffernan promoted from the Under 20’s.
Before the event, Croker indicated it would be a good chance for younger players to get game time under their wings, with tactics for the event only discussed days before.
The Raiders won their final game of the tournament 18-4 against Manly, but suffered losses to the Warriors and Cowboys in their first two games.
A points differential of -21 was all that disallowed them a finals spot, however in the first two games their defence was poor enough to reflect this.
Young players trialled well in their respective positions, and this will give Stuart good depth when it comes to replacements this season.
It was Croker’s first hit as a skipper in his professional career, with the accolade much deserved with support from teammates in addition to his 50 tries and 245 goals with a strike rate of almost 80 percent.
“It’s a nice little honour I suppose, something to be proud of, but after the service to the boys it’s something I haven’t done before,” Croker said.
“It’s pretty exciting, and hopefully it’s [Auckland Nines] a good weekend”
Croker said there would be more leadership expected from him throughout the NRL season now, but he was prepared to accept that challenge.
“I’m looking forward to a bit of a challenge, and I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.
“It’s a little bit of leadership there that hopefully I can take into round one.”
When asked if he had provided any advice to Croker, Raiders NRL captain Terry Campese said Croker did not need it.
“He’s almost played as many games as me,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
“He’s got a great level head, he’s definitely mature for his age and I think he’s definitely a captain for the club of the future.”
“It’s great to see him named in that position, and I think it’s well deserved.”