Michael Crocker is renowned for his hard-hitting, uncompromising style of play, but these days it is his leadership style that is earning the Rabbitohs' stand-in captain the accolades as he spearheads South Sydney’s finals charge.

Crocker’s return from injury against the Dragons coincided with their stunning form reversal, sparking their three-game winning streak after losing 48-16 to the Warriors without him. It has set the stage for an enthralling encounter at ANZ Stadium tonight with the Cowboys, who are fighting to remain in the top four.

“I always had hoped we would make the finals, ever since about three months ago when we started putting some good performances together,” Crocker said. “We just haven’t been consistent for 80 minutes, but we have been thereabouts. The whole team and squad stayed positive.”

The 31-year-old has led by example throughout the Rabbitohs’ resurgence and is relishing his role as captain. Whether he continues as skipper or shares the role when skipper Roy Asotasi is expected to return from injury next week is unknown.

What is known though is that Crocker promises to continue to lead by example regardless of whether he has a 'c' beside his name.

“I am loving it. More than anything it gives me confidence in my ability and my standing in the club as a leader,” he said. “It was tough sitting on the sidelines with injuries in past seasons and not being able to play and make a real contribution. My role on the field has solidified that I am a leader.”

Off the field, the 10-year NRL stalwart is also leading the way in other areas, taking up a role as one of the 15 NRL players who are ambassadors for the Black Dog Institute’s “Exercise Your Mood” Week (Sept 12-18) which the NRL is promoting this week throughout Round 24. 

Crocker is calling on men to get help - as he joins the NRL and Black Dog Institute campaign to help tackle the stigma associated with mental health issues and to raise awareness of the positive effects of exercise on mood disorders such as depression and bi-polar.

“It’s something I can relate to,” he said. “I have had a lot of people around me who have suffered from some sort of mood disorder.

“A lot of people, especially men, go through mood disorders and mental health issues. It’s hard for men to put their hand up and say they have a problem still. 

“I know a lot of guys who refuse to go to talk to anyone or don’t know where to go to or are scared to talk because it’s been ingrained in them not to talk about these sorts of issues.

“Putting your hand up is the first step.”

In partnership with the NRL’s ongoing commitment to addressing the stigmas surrounding mental health, the Black Dog Institute is providing education on mood disorders to NRL clubs (players, officials and staff) and professional training development to NRL Club Welfare and Education Managers.

Crocker said the seminar delivered to the South Sydney players had made them realise it’s not the end of the world and how important it is to ask for help if experiencing any sort of mood disorder.

For more information on the Black Dog Institute, go to www.blackdoginstitute.org.au