Jarrod Croker’s dream of playing 300 games for the Raiders is back on the table after the veteran centre was finally given a recall for the side’s clash against Canterbury on Friday night.
Croker is just nine games away from reaching the milestone and would become the 44th player to do so if he can remain in first grade for the remainder of the year.
As fate would have it, if the Raiders co-captain had started the season and played in the side’s eight games to date, he would’ve been running out for his 300th on Friday night.
Instead, after radical career-saving stem cell knee surgery in the off-season and a cautious approach from the club with his return, Croker will resume his NRL career two months into Canberra’s patchy 2022 campaign.
“You don’t think about those things ever but when you start to have those tough injuries and think about the future you start to look at it a little bit more,” Croker told NRL.com in March.
“It would be a dream come true, it’s the club I’ve loved and always wanted to play for. I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else.
“Getting to 292 is the next priority then after that if I managed to get to 300 it would be one of the better achievements of my career, if not my best."
Croker slices through on the edge
There was a time in October last year where Croker thought his glittering career was all but over.
A chronic knee injury that saw him not be able to do simple things in life like change his children's nappies or walk up the stairs, threatened to medically have him retired.
However, the 31-year-old was determined to explore his options before agreeing on revolutionary stem cell surgery,
"I had a lot of tough days particularly last year, the knee obviously needed something to continue playing," Croker said.
"The speed of the game didn’t help my knee before I got it fixed.
"I’m not a lightning 21-year-old again but I’ve been doing things in the gym I haven’t been able to do for two years.
"How long it is to stay that way no one really knows the answer to that but it’s certainly better than it’s felt for 18 months to two years. It's made a big difference.
"Those every day living things are a lot of the reasons why you continue to play footy. It’s at the forefront of your mind when you have a family, everything you do, that’s what it’s for."
Along with the 300-game target, Croker (2,238) is also third behind Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Cameron Smith (2,786) for most points scored in rugby league history.
Raiders v Bulldogs
With a player option in his favour to take him through until the 2024 season, Croker could go close if his body holds up.
"That’s one where I’m not too concerned," he replied.
"If I’m playing well for the club then I usually am kicking goal and it’s a by-product of us playing good footy.
"I just wanted to do something to keep playing. You want to be right long-term and also do right by the club."