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Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker.

Not much fazes the laid-back co-captain of the Canberra Raiders, Jarrod Croker.

Be it slotting a sideline conversion for a win, or cheering home one of his runners at any number of race tracks around the country when he's not busy with his "day job".

Croker has had the racing bug for many years, going back to buying a stake in his first two horses when he was 18.

He admits they "weren't much chop" but the start of the other obsession in his life had begun.

The highs and lows of a race owner are unique to the sport.

From the ecstasy of cheering home a winner and the love for the animals, to the lows of injuries and performances that failed to live up to expectations, Croker has been through it all.

"One of my best mates Brad Hewitt trains and drives them and we got one together in about 2013 called him JT," Croker told

"We've had a few better ones since, but he was a great little fella, had a great turn of speed and he won five or six straight when he got here, and we were hooked then.

"You keep rolling them over, use the prize money to buy more so now I've got about three gallopers and eight or nine trotters."

Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Jedd Naum and Brad Hewitt
Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Jedd Naum and Brad Hewitt ©Jarrod Croker

From talking about the NRL season ahead where Croker is all business, the subject of racing brings a relaxed look in the Canberra veteran's eyes.

Memories of close wins, bad losses on the finishing post and what-ifs roll off his tongue as well as any kick from his left boot.

"It's something that keeps me occupied off the field, sometimes too much, but it's a great hobby to have and I've got some many friends and family involved with it now," Croker said.

Some of those friends even play in lime green, with several players and staff at the Raiders now joining in on owning runners of the galloping and trotting variety.

Sam Williams, Elliott Whitehead, Shannon Boyd, Luke Bateman, Glen Buttriss and coach Ricky Stuart are all co-owners of the aptly named Real Obsession.

The six-year-old mare has seven wins from 27 starts, not that that's always enough for one of her owners.

"Elliott [Whitehead] is the worst, he owns the horse and he whinges when it goes around and wins at a $1.30," Croker laughs.

"We can't keep him happy, but he's only joking half the time, but he can get a bit upset."

Racing banter on the training paddock is one thing, but it's Croker's family where the real passion for the sport lies.

The extended clan are all involved and be it an afternoon on the punt in a T-shirt and shorts or suiting up on track, Croker is not seen as a 280-game NRL veteran but just another other 28-year-old.

"It's always in the back of my mind and I'll always represent the club the best way I can away from footy, but it's good to get away with the boys," he said.

"Dad's still there getting me to toe the line, I'm still just a normal bloke and to get out there with all of your family and have a couple of beers and enjoy it with your family and friends because they're the ones who've supported you throughout your whole career and got you to where you are."

Luke Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Jarrod Croker and Milly Hewitt.
Luke Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Jarrod Croker and Milly Hewitt. ©Jarrod Croker

Croker believes his laid-back up-bringing in Goulburn was critical for fostering his other great sporting love.

"It's bit of an old cliché, you want to have a game of footy on Friday night and then go and have a beer and punt on Saturday so I'm not sure if that's true for everybody or if it’s just how I was brought up," he said.

"It seems that way for country boys who grew up in a pretty chilled out environment, but it's a nice thing to help me get away."

Like any good stockbroker, the buzz of buying low and selling high also attracts Croker as he searches for the "next big thing" of the track.

The future for the Raiders centre now appears to be branching out and buying yearlings as his understanding and knowledge of the sport grows with every race.

"We've bought [three yearlings] as babies and they hadn't had a race, so they could be the one, you never know, that's the exciting part," he said.

What of racing full-time when it comes times to hang up the boots?

Croker still has plenty of years left in the game and many more goals to achieve with his beloved Raiders.

However, it safe to assume he won't be getting under his wife Brittany's feet too much when he's no longer training and playing.

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker at training.
Raiders centre Jarrod Croker at training. ©

"I've been in the gig before and that's good fun but when it comes to training I'm not as knowledgeable as I'd need to be but you'd definitely have a look at it," Croker said.

"But when it comes to after footy I haven't even thought about it yet, I've spent already 10 years in Canberra with Brittany, she's given that up for my footy, so I'd take into consideration what she'd like to do after I finish footy given I have taken so much time off her."

For the time being, the biggest bet Croker wants to place, figuratively speaking of course, is the Raiders making it back to the finals in 2019.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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