Jarrod Croker is preparing for his 12th season in the NRL. On this particular day in March, he’s already completed four media interviews, responding to questions ranging from last year’s aching grand final loss to the impending birth of his first child.
Jarrod, it would appear, is ready for almost anything thrown his way. But a pressing concern is his future with the Raiders, given his current deal finishes at the end of this season.
Jarrod says the extension is all but signed, with his manager Paul Sutton and Raiders CEO Don Furner meeting last week to finalise a three-year deal which will see Jarrod remain at the Raiders until the end of 2023 season. By that time he will be 33 years of age.
“We’ll sort it out in the next week or two but it will be fine,” Jarrod says with his usual calmness.
Naturally I ask if it will be his last contract with the Raiders.
“It’s a scary question,” he responds.
“It will extend my career for a long time but I feel good. I’m keen to play footy.
“I’m only 29 and I’ve got a lot of footy left in me. But it’s a long way away as well, so I’m not going to give you a definite ‘yes’ but if I’m still feeling well, I’ll still keep playing, that’s if I’m still playing up to standard.”
By the time his new contract is complete, he will probably have broken practically every record in the NRL.
With 1,996 points to his name, he is seventh on the all-time NRL point-scoring list. The tireless Cameron Smith leads with 2,606.
Jarrod is already the Raiders all-time leading point scorer and looks destined to overtake distant-relation Jason Croker with the most number of first-grade games played for the Raiders. Jason is on 318 games and Jarrod has played 257 with potentially at least four more seasons to go.
“I’d love to play as long as I can but I’ll never play on when I know I’m not right to play. It’s just going to be on a year-by-year, game-by-game, week-by-week basis,” he explains.
For the record, he didn’t miss a game in 2019.
It’s been an unusual pre-season with the relocation of the training base to the Sunshine Coast because of the bushfire smoke, as well as community visits to bushfire-affected towns along the South Coast and Southern NSW.
And of course, there has been plenty of hard work on the training paddock as the club seeks to erase their poor record prior to the success of the 2019 season.
Think back to 2010, 2012 and 2016.
Jarrod feels as though things will be different this time around with a more experienced group of players, but he’s in no doubt his team will be the hunted in 2020 after making the grand final last season.
“We know that we’ve had a good season last year. Other teams are going to be preparing for us a lot earlier than they would have been this time last year. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got a few things to work on out of the trial game against the Bulldogs, but nothing too glaring, other than that, we’re just excited to get back into it.”
On the 2019 grand final in which the Raiders went down 14-8 to the Roosters, I ask whether he’s watched a replay of the game?
“I haven’t watched it. I probably won’t, to be honest,” he says, before turning to winger Nick Cotric. “Have you watched it, Nick?”
Nick shakes his head.
Jarrod continues with his answer: “I don’t think many of the boys have watched it.”
I guess we could talk about football and statistics all day but the reality is, what he does on the football field won’t be the most important part of his life this year.
Wife Brittney is expecting their first child in the middle of June.
“Touch wood,” he says in his usual calm way. “She hasn’t been crook or anything. Everything’s been good at the moment, and the time’s gone quickly.”
As we complete our chat, followed by a photo for this story, he is off to the next interview. It’s all done with the same professional spirit he displays on the field.
Thankfully, he will be a Raider for the foreseeable future.