Four Raiders and their 3000km journey to Wagga
If you happen to be heading to Country v City from Canberra this weekend, spare a thought for the four Raiders and Country representatives who took the long way – a 3000 kilometre trip – to the annual clash in Wagga Wagga.
After the Raiders' success in Cairns where they accounted for the reigning premiers South Sydney 30-22, the quarter had to fly back home to Canberra before heading to Griffith on Tuesday to join the Country camp. From there, they headed to Wagga Wagga on Wednesday morning.
"Obviously being in Cairns for four days we had to go home and do a bit of washing and unpack and then pack again before upping and going," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker told NRL.com.
Whether it was superstition or the fact they didn’t want to curse their chances of selection by packing for the Country camp just in case, Paul Vaughan, Shannon Boyd (18th man) and Jack Wighton joined Croker for the huge trip across two states to ensure their spot in Trent Barrett's team.
"It's good to have Jacko [Wighton] here alongside me, he's obviously played a fair few games of this before and [Paul] Vaughany played last year," Croker said.
"Big [Shannon] Boydy is getting some great experience down here too which is great."
Having been overlooked for a Country berth since his debut in 2009, Croker wasn't expecting a call-up.
"Obviously there's always a bit of talk about it but it wasn't something I was worried about or thinking about heading into our game, I was more focused on going good against the Rabbitohs so it topped off a pretty good weekend," Croker said.
"I've never really worried too much about selections previously, so it's not been something I felt I should have been doing earlier. The timing seems right now, I've been playing some good footy and so have the rest of the boys in Canberra so it definitely helps my cause.
"I've always obviously wanted to play in this clash. I'm a very proud Country boy so I was pretty excited to get the call-up and I know my family were pretty excited about it too."
Now that Croker has the opportunity to represent country NSW, the 24-year-old has credited his junior club the Goulburn Stockmen for what he has achieved so far.
While he has been able to represent the Prime Ministers XIII and NRL All Stars so far, his Country Origin debut ensures he is one step away from playing in one of rugby showpiece events, State of Origin.
"It's my junior club, it's where I grew up, the Stockmen basically supported me throughout my junior years. I played there from when I was five all the way through to when I was 17," Croker said.
"I love the place and I still get home a fair bit so I have the Goulburn community and the Stockmen as well, though they're the Bulldogs now, but I owe them everything they allowed me to get to where I am today."