After analysing the incredible statistics that he compiled, whilst also taking into consideration Canberra’s standing on the ladder in 2014, there is no doubt that there was no player more deserving of the Meninga Medal this year than Jarrod Croker.
Playing in every minute of every game for the Raiders this season, Croker finished the year as the side’s leading point scorer with 202 points (3rd in the competition) and leading try scorer with 18 tries (3rd in the competition), whilst also having the second most line breaks and tackle breaks behind Anthony Milford.
In fact, Croker improved on every single statistic this year compared to his 2013 season, aside from metres gained through kicks (although it should be noted that Croker’s kicks aren’t necessarily the type intended for field position, but more of the attacking variety).
At just 24 years of age, Croker proved to be the rock of Canberra’s 2014 season.
Since making his debut in 2009, Croker has proved to be a highly consistent and effective performer for the Raiders.
His durability is emphasised with his record as the fastest Raiders player to play in 100 NRL games since making their debut for the club (behind his relative Jason Croker) and the second youngest player ever to reach the century milestone. He has never played under 21 games in a season since his debut.
His pace, sidestep and deceptive swerve in attack coupled with his near faultless goal kicking and humility has won him over thousands of loyal fans.
Despite his brilliant form for the Green Machine, Croker, somewhat peculiarly, was unable to break into any representative sides in 2014.
After being on the cusp of selection last year, Croker looked almost certain to be selected for Country this year but was overlooked for Jamal Idris and ironically, team mate Jack Wighton.
Croker’s form did not wane despite the disappointment, in fact, it improved.
So much so that he was called into the NSW Blues squad as a cover for Josh Morris who was under an injury cloud at the time. Morris ended up playing for the Blues but Croker’s inclusion into the squad as a back-up spoke volumes about his form at the time and the esteem in which he is held in by Coach Laurie Daley.
Croker’s final ray of hope for representative selection in 2014 has come from his inclusion in the Australian Kangaroos squad for the Four Nations at season’s end.
Whilst Croker missed out on breaking into the representative arena this year, he was able to achieve the feat of captaining the Raiders for the first time in his blossoming career. Following Terry Campese’s demotion to the VB NSW Cup, Croker captained the club in the final rounds of the season.
With Brett White retiring and if Campese is unable to regain a place in the top 17, Croker may be in line to Captain the club on a full-time basis in 2015 and beyond, given that he has re-signed with the club until the end of 2018.
“Being named Captain for the few games is a huge honour and I’ve enjoyed leading the team out over the past couple of weeks,” Croker said.
“I’m very excited to be remaining at the club where I made my debut and we’re I’ve been able to start and build on my NRL career. Canberra is a place I love and where I want to play my football and I believe we have a bright future ahead of us with our playing roster and coaching staff led by Ricky Stuart.”
Raiders CEO Don Furner said the re-signing of Croker was a huge one for the club and Croker had the potential to go on and be one of the legends of the Raiders.
“Jarrod is a pleasure to have at the club both on and off the field and we see him as a leader who can help take us forward into the future,” he said. “He’s another local junior who has committed to the club long term and his form over the past few seasons makes him a valuable player for us here at the Raiders.
“His record at just 23 years of age of playing close to 150 matches and scoring almost 900 points is remarkable and he has the potential to break all of our clubs records.”
Average Minutes: 80
Goals: 65 (84.42%)
Try Assists: 6
Try Saves: 4
Line Breaks: 14
Line Break Assists: 5
Tackle Breaks: 67
Average Metres: 100.8
Average Tackles: 12.6
Kick Metres: 6 kicks for 78 metres