Jarrod Croker will retire as a Raiders legend.
But if he had his way, he would be leaving the game in the same fashion as he entered first grade in 2009.
Croker’s first grade debut had little fanfare and that’s how he wanted it. His approach to any form of fanfare would be considered by most to be low-key. His approach is based on a ‘team first’ philosophy.
Despite his desire to keep it moderate, there will be plenty of fanfare around his imminent retirement at the end of this season. That is guaranteed. The celebration witnessed when he ran out for his 300th in June is a testament to this happening.
There was an option for one more season, but that was in favour of the Raiders and dependent on the number of games Croker plays in 2023 to activate an automatic trigger for the 2024 season. He fell short of the number of games required and has opted for retirement.
Injuries effectively bring a premature end to his career after battling to get back into the Raiders’ top line-up to reach the magic 300-game milestone.
He had to endure the long bus trips back and forth from Canberra to Sydney as he steadily built an argument for a return to first grade.
At one stage it looked as though he may never play another game in first grade.
At the start of the season, he spoke about the intensity of pre-season training, suggesting it was harder than playing.
He did appear to struggle at times with the physicality of the game. Centres and wingers these days are built like front rowers, and although Croker’s defensive effort was always there, it was difficult and damaging to his body.
But this was more than countered through his goal-kicking, leadership and calmness under pressure as evidenced by the Raiders’ return to form on Croker’s return.
He will leave the game with records made as Raiders’ leading point scorer and third place on the NRL all-time list behind Hazem El Masri and Cameron Smith.
There will, no doubt, be some speculation about how Croker compares with the legends of the Raiders.
It would be hard to find a place for him in the Raiders’ all-time top 13, with Daley and Meninga holding a mortgage on the two centre positions.
But what shouldn’t be overlooked is the influence he has had on the playing group and their perception in the Canberra community.
Despite breaking just about every point-scoring record at the Raiders, his work in the community off the field has been of equal importance.
His connection with the community, coupled with his commitment to the Raiders as a one-team player, has made him a crowd favourite. He became a magnet for the fans before and after games.
This is why there is a generation of young kids in Canberra playing with white headgear. Jarrod has given away literally hundreds during his career and he must have stimulated sales in the item.
If a statue is contemplated, the white headgear would have to be a prerequisite.
It will be hard to imagine a Raiders side without a Croker.
Combined, Jason and Jarrod have played 623 games for the Club. Since 1991, with a gap of only a couple of years, there has always been a Croker contracted to the Raiders.
It’s the end of an era: at least for the time being.