Croker welcomes Sezer rivalry
Jarrod Croker knows better than most the importance of goal-kicking.
The Canberra skipper finished the 2010 regular season as the NRL's leading point-scorer, but his exploits that year were overshadowed by a heartbreaking missed penalty goal that would have sent his side's week two finals match against the Wests Tigers into extra-time.
Thankfully for the 25-year-old he was able to make amends in 2015, incidentally against the same team. With the scores locked at 22-22 Croker opted to take a difficult 43-metre penalty goal, which he duly slotted to lead his side to victory.
Croker's goal-kicking has steadily improved each year, with the clinical converter finishing the 2015 regular season as the competition's leading points-scorer with 236.
His meteoric rise in the ranks hasn't been a fluke, with the Raiders centre telling NRL.com it's something he takes very seriously at training.
With 10 matches heading to golden point in 2015 – including the grand final – the difference between winning and losing can often come down to the kickers.
"It can be the difference in making the eight. We put a lot of work into it. It's something that you've really got to want to do," Croker said.
"You can't just expect to go out and have a kick in the last training run and expect to go out and kick consistently week in week out. You might get lucky once or twice, but you've got to practice a couple of times every week and really want to do it.
"It's something I put a lot of time into and I love doing. I work really hard with Darryl Halligan and I have for a long time. Chook (Halligan) is fairly well into me, making sure I'm doing the right thing and the right amount of practice each week."
While he will assume the kicking boots in Round 1, Croker knows there are no guarantees he will have the job every week with sharp-shooter Aiden Sezer joining the club from the Gold Coast Titans.
Like his new skipper, Sezer is an accomplished left-footed sniper, and even boasts a slightly better career success rate – 82.98 per cent compared to Croker's 81.45.
Croker welcomes the challenge his new teammate will bring and sees it as a positive that will spur him to lift his game in 2016.
"Aiden's been good, mate. We've got a really tight bunch down there in Canberra and he's fit straight into that. He was one of our standouts on the weekend [in a trial win over Newcastle]. I thought he played really well. His kicking game's been good and he's steering the boys around," Croker said.
"I kicked on the weekend – I think I had 5/6. It's good to have someone like Aidan there. It keeps me on my toes. It makes me want to get better as a goal-kicker because I know how good he is. I'll start off and know that he's hot on my heels."
Want to see how Croker goes versus Sezer in a goal-kicking competition in training? CLICK HERE to watch!
This article first appeared on NRL.com