Such is his popularity, it would be no surprise to see a generation of young rugby league players in Canberra running around in the future donning Jarrod Croker-style white headgear.
This could be partly due to the fact that he gives his headgear away to fans after each game, but more so as a reflection of his positive influence within the community, not just rugby league.
Croker’s playing ability, coupled with his understated personality, make him an endearing sportsman in this modern age where sportspeople are encouraged to promote their brand.
His Twitter handle description of ‘proud captain of the Canberra Raiders’ is about as self-promoting as Jarrod gets.
When asked one day a couple of years ago if he was ever concerned about personal attacks on social media, his reply was no, he doesn’t worry about it and the biggest sledges on social media are often his mates. But loyalty dictates that they will go into bat for Jarrod if they feel he is under attack from outsiders.
If anything, Jarrod has been described as being akin to ‘hiding in plain sight,’ as an omnipresent figure for the Raiders since making his first grade debut in 2009 as a teenager, complete with blond tips in his hair.
I well remember the questions directed his way in those early days. They mainly consisted of whether he was related to former Raiders player Jason Croker. Both players come from the same area, Goulburn-Crookwell, surely they are related?
Turns out they are distant relatives, but Jarrod still ended up with Jason’s nickname ‘Toots’ anyway.
Jason Croker still has the record for the most number of games for the Raiders with 318. If Jarrod keeps going until he’s 34 (the age he has indicated he wants to play through to), then he will break that record as well.
It is one of the few Raiders records he hasn’t already broken, the way he is going he will break plenty more NRL records including the all-time leading point scorer in the code’s history. Cameron Smith leads the way with 2,548, Jarrod is now eighth with 1,934.
He broke Graham Eadie’s record for the youngest player to score 1,900 points, by a year.
So why he hasn’t played Origin is a question raised by even the most reasonable of Raiders supporters not swayed by club loyalty.
It’s a question that is hard to answer. He is consistently among the leading try scorers in the NRL, coupled with his ability as a goal kicker, but he has been overlooked for players he has outplayed in club games.
At 28 years of age, the question could soon be: Has time run out?
Raiders fans just want him to play forever. In their minds, he is a great player irrespective of whether he is ever selected for Origin or not.
Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.