After battling for years to overcome chronic injuries and missed opportunities, Lachlan Croker feels primed to make the most of his new opportunity with the Manly Sea Eagles.
At the start of 2017, Croker – a Goulburn native – was returning from a ruptured ACL, which had ended his 2016 and any hopes of taking the field for the Raiders again that season.
Croker sat on the Raiders’ sidelines for much of 2017, and in November signed a deal with Manly, whose coach Trent Barrett was a long-time fan of the youngster.
Barrett’s faith is such that there are already rumours flying about Croker potentially donning the number six jersey after Mitchell Pearce decided to instead sign with Newcastle.
While he admitted that “it’s nice to be thought of that way”, Croker is not getting his hopes up about playing at five-eighth.
“I’m not really paying it too much attention at the moment,” he said.
“In the game, you never really know you’re there until you’re there … it’s such a cut-throat place and anything can change in the click of a finger.”
In spite of his caution, Croker said that he would be “ecstatic” if he was awarded the number six position, and one of the factors further buoying Croker’s spirits at the moment is his freedom from injury for the first time in several years.
Two ACL tears, two PCL tears, and a shoulder operation understandably left him shaken, but Croker feels that he has reached a point where his body is ready to start supporting his immense talent.
“I feel really good,” Croker said.
“It’s been a tough run and a tough couple of years. I’m sort of feeling like things are starting to turn around and maybe it is my turn to have some good fortune.”
Croker’s current attitude shows no vestiges of the internal struggle he dealt with in the midst of his injury-stricken years.
“I don’t know if you ever really do get past it, it’s just part of the game I guess,” he said. You always have those thoughts that you think maybe one more and I’m done.
“You’ve just gotta try and keep it out of your head and enjoy what you’re doing. There’s not many people that get to say they’re doing what they love doing.”
However, should the five-eighth position become his to assume, Croker is sure that he is prepared to make an impact.
“I feel like I’m ready and I’ve spent my time in the lower grades and worked towards the final goal,” Croker said.
“I feel a lot better than I have the last couple of years.”
Part of the reason for Croker’s optimism lies in his personality. The young man has an unharried nature which permeates through his teammates.
“I’m a bit more of a calm demeanour to the team,” Croker said.
“That’s a big one for me, is how calm I feel like I can make things.
“When everyone else is worrying about themselves, just knowing they have confidence in me to do my own job is one of those things [that helps me].”