The age-old cliché of taking it "one game at a time" has taken on a whole new meaning for Raiders captain Jarrod Croker as he inches his way closer to game 300.
With career game 294 ticked off in Canberra's 20-14 win over the Dragons, the 32-year-old is once again starting to dream of a milestone which injuries long put out of reach – to become just the second player in Raiders history to record 300 games for the club.
“I must admit last year I started thinking ‘ah well, 290 is pretty good’ but once I got another sniff I thought ‘righto I really want it now," a proud and smiling Croker told NRL.com.
"It would be everything. I got to 280 so quickly and then I haven’t played for two years so I got stuck at 290.
“Every week is just getting that little step closer so we will hopefully just take each week at a time and see how we go.
“Just keep slowly chipping closer...that’s all I can do.”
Croker's perfect kicking return
Young guns Seb Kris and Matt Timoko locked down their centre positions when Croker missed all but one game last season, but injuries to several of Ricky Stuart’s outside backs forced a reshuffle this season, with Croker's return to the side expedited after a demoralising home loss to Penrith in Round 5.
With the Green Machine recording two-straight victories since his inclusion, Croker hopes his combined 126 run metres, 30 tackles and three tackle busts are enough to cement his centre position when Xavier Savage (jaw) and Jordan Rapana (head knock) return to the side next week.
“I just hope I’ve done enough to go again. I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment,” he said.
“I think Xav looked like he went well in NSW Cup and I’m not sure how Nick (Cotric) is but I know Raps will be right for that game.
“Seb (Kris) is getting better at fullback every week as well so that’s one for the coach but it’s a good headache to have.
“Having that milestone in the back of my head does make me want to play better every week because with Xavier and Rapa coming back in the side. But it’s good depth to have and a good position to be in for the team.
“It’s just good to be back in amongst it again and just like the old cliché - we need to go every week and earn the jersey every week.”
Seb Kris scores the Raiders first try
Croker looked to be steaming towards the 300-game mark at the end of the 2020 season with 279 games to his name, but a frustrating battle with shoulder and knee injuries saw the Goulburn product play just 13 games in the past two seasons.
Although admitting to a few bumps and bruises after back-to-back hard-fought victories, the one-club-man believes his “love for the game” will be enough to carry him all the way to 300.
“We had a very good win last weekend and I think in regard to showing what was under the jersey and pride and working hard for each other, we certainly did that again,” he said.
“I just want to play every game like it is my last. Looking back throughout the past few years, I've had a lot of tough days.
There was a period there I was never away from footy, never injured. I was 31, had never had a shoulder problem and now I’ve had two reconstructions…it all came in spades.Jarrod Croker Raiders centre
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve been at a great club and been here for a long time. If you love the game enough and you want to be here and are willing to work hard then the club will be good to you.”
Match: Raiders v Dolphins
Round 9 -
Venue: McDonalds Park, Wagga Wagga