Stuart hesitated giving Croker captaincy

It’s a moment that changed Jarrod Croker’s NRL career and one he will never forget.

But it almost never happened.

Late one Monday afternoon in December 2014, the young centre was told he might be Canberra’s next captain.

Coach Ricky Stuart, though, wasn’t 100 per cent sure.

“He told me to go and talk to my old man about it because he knows I’m very close with him,” Croker said.

“I did a weight session, went home and was just a bit quiet.”

Greg Croker, like his son, isn’t very opinionated and didn’t have much to say.

“But he said ‘go in there and tell him you want it anyway’,” Croker told AAP.

“He was obviously confident I’d be able to do it, he wanted me to be positive about it all and let him know I did want to do it.”

While he had played 140 games over six seasons in the NRL, he was still only 24.

He captained the last three games of the 2014 season and won them all, but the Raiders finished second-last.

“I can understand the hesitation,” Croker said.

“I was such a young player.

“The next morning, we were heading out somewhere for a promo, and before I even got to really think about it too much, he rang me back and said ‘Na, it’s yours. I want you to do it’.

“‘He said he had all the confidence in me and straight away was like ‘Mate, we’re going to get through it together. We’ll tough it out, and if there’s any dramas we’ll be sweet’.

“He told me to do it my way, it was my job, and that I don’t have to change on or off the field for anyone or anything.

“I’m glad he went with me. It’s probably the proudest moment of my career.”

Croker will lead the club in their first preliminary final since the 1997 Super League season, against Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

He finished the regular season as the league’s highest pointscorer by 91 points – the biggest margin in the NRL era, smashing the Raiders’ all-time pointscoring record along the way.

If he scores four points this weekend, he will become the first centre to crack 300 in a single campaign.

Just one point and he will surpass the 2006 mark of Hazem El Masri, with whom he sits equal-third on the all-time list of most points in a season.

“If I’m scoring points, then generally we’re playing good footy and we’re winning games – that’s the most pleasing side of it for me.”

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