A few years ago, I remember asking Jarrod Croker whether he was personally impacted by negative commentary on social media.
He said it didn’t affect him at all because he was used to the good-natured banter from his mates.
In many ways, it provides an insight into the psyche of the Raiders veteran. He’s surrounded by mates who are fiercely protective, but at the same time, they ensure that he remains grounded.
Not that he has shown any signs of getting carried away by his status as an NRL player.
In the many interviews I have had with him since he joined the club as a teenager in 2008, he seems not to have changed too much at all. He’s a fair bit wiser at 32 years of age, but he’s basically the same.
At the start of the season, I spoke to him about the prospect of the upcoming milestone and whether his body was ready for the rigours of NRL, given the shoulder and knee injuries he has suffered over the years.
After a gruelling pre-season, he said he was more than ready as pre-season training is often considered harder than actually playing (but he might have changed his mind after putting his body on the line against Moses Suli and Kotoni Staggs in successive weeks in April).
Since his recall for the game against the Broncos on 8 April, the Raiders have lost only one game and that was the aberration against Manly.
Since then, his steady boot and calmness under pressure have guided the Raiders into the top six on the ladder.
But there is more to why Jarrod Croker has become a favourite amongst the Raiders faithful.
After each game, he gives away his trademark Madison headgear. The Queensland-based company gives him a new one for each game.
It has become so identifiable with Croker that his mates have been talking about decking themselves out in the white headgear on Friday night.
In 2017 there was a problem, though, when teammate Luke Bateman asked to borrow Croker’s headgear.
Despite playing in different positions, they were similar in stature and hard to differentiate on the field.
I wasn’t the only commentator who awarded Croker two tries in the 32-18 win over South Sydney in round 21 in 2017.
In fact, Bateman scored the try, which was initially given to Croker by at least a couple of commentators.
Our confusion robbed Bateman of the commentary fanfare of a player scoring his very first try in the NRL.
Beyond football and family, Jarrod’s other passion is horses – gallopers and trotters.
In 2021 he landed a Kosciuszko start with a horse that he part-owned, Intuition, trained by Kurt Goldman.
And Jarrod and Sam Williams were named ambassadors for Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park for the 2021-2022 racing season.
But focusing back on Friday night presents a moment to savour as Croker becomes only the second Raider to play 300 NRL games.
The other player to reach this milestone is Jason Croker, but Jarrod will need to go around next year to break Jason’s record of 318 games.
For all followers of the Raiders, and anyone interested in the game, this Friday is a special moment. Only 50 NRL players have hit the 300 milestone, and less than 15 done it at the one club.
He won’t like the attention, but Jarrod Croker will join this significant group of players as he carves his spot in the club’s history and in the game of rugby league.
Croker’s 300th game will be at GIO Stadium this Friday night (9 June). Tickets from Ticketek.