5 June 2023

Jarrod Croker’s 300th game will rank among the greatest moments at Canberra Stadium

| Tim Gavel
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The day the NRL froze at the footy in May 2000 when the Raiders played the Tigers at Canberra Stadium. Photo: playersvoice.com.au.

When Mal Meninga played his farewell game at Canberra Stadium in 1994, the demand for seating was so great that children were allowed to sit on the grass behind the dead ball line at the southern end of the stadium.

There were 25,253 fans crammed into the stadium on that day. It was billed as one of the greatest moments in Canberra sport.

It was made even more memorable as the Meninga Stand was unveiled after the 40-22 victory over the Wests Magpies.

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Then there was the day three of the club’s greatest were farewelled in 2000. More than 23,600 turned out to say goodbye to Laurie Daley, Brett Mullins and David Furner.

Again, this was made even more memorable because a rainbow miraculously appeared across the southern sky at full-time.

But it is not just about farewell games that have created an indelible imprint on the psyche of Canberra sport.

There was the night of 27 May 2000 when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies 20-19 in the Super Rugby final in front of 27,489 fans.

The very next day, following the Brumbies’ loss, we experienced one of the most talked about sporting moments in Canberra’s sporting history, the ‘snow game’, when the Raiders defeated the Wests Tigers 24-22.

The official crowd was said to be 7000. Hardy fans were offered free pies and players drank hot tea at halftime. A highlight of the curtain raiser reserve grade game was a snowball fight after the siren.

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There were also big crowds for the Brumbies finals in 2001 and 2004 and the 2013 game between the Brumbies and the British and Irish Lions.

Possibly the most volatile sporting experience I have encountered in 32 years at Canberra Stadium came in the 2015 Asian Cup Quarter Final.

Asian Cup 2015 at Canberra Stadium

Asian Cup 2015 at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The game was between Iran and Iraq. Iran ended up winning in a dramatic penalty shootout. It was drama charged on and off the pitch, making anything else at the stadium before or since look relatively tame in comparison.

On Friday night, Jarrod Croker will become only the 15th player to clock up 300 games with the same club. Photo: File.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has rallied Canberra fans to turn out in record numbers to support Jarrod Croker on Friday night.

Due to the reconfiguration of the ground, the record of 28,753 people who turned out for the Brumbies-Crusaders 2004 final won’t be beaten. But judging by ticket sales, it will be the biggest crowd at the stadium that we have experienced for some time.

So if there is one game worth getting off the couch and heading to Bruce for, this is it.

Croker’s 300th game will be at GIO Stadium this Friday night (9 June). Tickets from Ticketek.

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