NOT so long ago Jarrod Croker and Mitch Cornish were Junior Stockmen.
It is a wonder if either knew, as they ran around North Park without a care in the world, that one day they would make it to the NRL.
It is a wonder if either knew that one day they would be an integral part of the Canberra Raiders, striving to regain glory.
For Cornish, he was only oneyear- old when the Green Machine last tasted premiership success in 1994.
Ricky Stuart was half back in that game. He is now club coach, and this week named the 22-yearold as starting half back in Sunday’s season opener against Cronulla at Remondis Stadium. “It’s what he’s always wanted, to be the half back of the Canberra Raiders,” Cornish’s mother Michelle reminisced with the Post.
“He’s worked really hard for it. And I know he’s excited for Sunday, it’s just Mitchell always plays things down. It’s just how he is.”
By all accounts, this is just the way Cornish works.
He has always been a very ambitious and hard working junior footballer, but one that never made any fuss.
Earning the hotly contested number 7 jersey over fellow halfback Sam Williams is the culmination of hard yakka for the young man who just recently became a father.
His step-father Steve Freebody, remembers the moment when Cornish decided to turn his love for the sport into a career.
“When both boys (Mitchell and brother Tyler) grew up wanting to do this, we asked them if this was what they really wanted. They said yes and we said ok we’ll do everything we can to help you achieve this.
“I look at him now and he’s had two full pre-seasons with the Raiders. I look at him now and he’s no longer a boy. He’s a man.”
For Jarrod Croker, the road has also been paved with determination and hard work.
After a decade with the club, seven of which with the senior side, Croker will lead the Raiders as captain for 2015.
It’s a feat his father Greg admits he never expected, but he can see the qualities in his son that the Raiders identified as captain material.
“He’s always been a team player, ever since he was a junior, he would always put the team ahead of himself. I think that’s one of the reasons why they made him captain,” he told the Post.
“If anything he’s excited. He has captained a few times so I think he’s used to it.
“I told him to be your own person, do it your own way and that’s something I know Ricky encourages.”
Level headed, laid back but hard working, Croker can sometimes wear his heart on his sleeves.
But he has always led by example.
It’s why he continues to be an outstanding role model for young Goulburnians.
If last season was any indication, it’s that he is just beginning to find his feet on the national stage.
Named as the Raiders’ best and fairest, and chosen for the NSW Blues train on squad as well as for the national team, he was then picked in the NRL All Stars team earlier this year.
In a conversation with the Post at a windy Goulburn Paceway in January, Croker talked about hoping to lead the Raiders back to former glories.
He was calm, cool, and collected, and left a feeling of confidence that the Raiders were in safe hands.
So with that, we your home town wish you Jarred, the very best in your first season leading the Green Machine.
We also wish good luck to Mitch. We know you’re capable of having that breakout year.
You’ve earned your spot and are more than capable of shining in it.
Good luck boys.