With his NRL career approaching its last act, Canberra legend Jarrod Croker says he doesn’t want to be picked on sentiment for the Green Machine’s elimination final against Newcastle.
Croker will hang up his boots whenever the Raiders’ season ends with the club’s try and points scoring records to his name from a 307-game Canberra career.
The thought of Croker finishing his time with Canberra at NRL level seemed a long shot at the start of the season due to his struggles with knee and shoulder issues.
That was until senior Canberra players asked for coach Ricky Stuart to recall Croker in round six of this year. He has subsequently defied the odds to make 15 appearances in 2023.
“I feel like what I’ve achieved this year, it’s not been the ideal circumstances to do it in but it’s better than what I was looking at,” Croker told AAP.
Even with his return to NRL action, things haven’t been all plain sailing for Croker.
He was controversially rested by Stuart so he could play his 300th game at home, which the Raiders lost to the Warriors.
In round 26, in his final home game, Croker was named on the bench for the first time in his career.
He only saw three minutes of game time in the dying moments when Brisbane had victory wrapped up, in a disappointing end for one of Canberra’s favourite sons.
“It was a weird one, not getting on until the 80th minute,” Croker said.
“It was a different feeling but if you'd asked me how I’d feel at the start of the year in my final home game, I'd have said I'd be balling my eyes out.
“Because I didn’t get on it had a different feeling, it was a tough one to get emotional for.”
Sebastian Kris’s five-game suspension has opened the door for 32-year-old Croker to return to Stuart’s gameday 17 against the Knights on Sunday.
Croker was named on the bench for the Raiders’ final round clash with Cronulla, only to be dropped altogether before kick-off.
Asked if he wanted to be picked on merit rather than sentiment, Croker said: “That’s human nature.
"I don’t like being on the bench. I don’t think many people do and I’ve never been on there either.
"At the same time, I’ll do whatever is best for the team.”
Aside from losing Kris to suspension, Canberra are without Corey Horsburgh and Josh Papalii but Croker said the us-against-the-world mentality played into Stuart's hands.
"Theyre going for 10 in a row and Kalyn Ponga's on fire," Croker added.
"Nobody is expecting us to win, so we've got to go up there and try and spoil the party."