New Manly players Lachlan Croker and Joel Thompson had a special moment to cherish at Lottoland today.
Following the final training run ahead of tomorrow night’s opening round clash against the Newcastle Knights, Croker and Thompson were presented with their Club debut jerseys in front of their team-mates and coaching staff.
Croker will become the 600th player and Thompson, the 601st player, to play first grade for the Sea Eagles since the club’s inception in 1947.
Former Canberra Raiders and Kiwi international Quentin Pongia, now employed as Manly’s Wellbeing and Education Officer, presented Croker with his jersey. Pongia was a former team-mate of Croker’s uncle, Jason.
Thompson was presented with his jersey by one of his childhood heroes in Sea Eagles great Steve Menzies after growing up as a Manly fan.
Pongia said the time had arrived for Lachlan to make a name for himself as a five-eighth at Manly and emerge from the shadows of the famous Croker name.
“Lachlan is a pretty humble kid who has his feet firmly on the ground. He seems very happy alongside his team-mates and has fully earnt their respect,’’ Pongia said.
At the end of the day, Lachlan has to be Lachlan. He has worked hard for this opportunity.Quentin Pongia on Lachlan Croker
“The biggest advice I can give him is to go out and play his game, and to just enjoy himself.”
Menzies said he was very honoured to be asked to present the jersey to Thompson.
“When I grew up, Graham Eadie and Johnny Gibbs were my heroes. When you are a young kid, it is awesome to have those players you love,’’ Menzies said.
“It is very humbling to know that I was one of Joel’s favourite players. It is great that he can now play for the team he loved in Manly.
“He will really fit into the Manly system. He is a hard worker, I like his toughness, and you can rely on him every week in what is a very long season.”
Gareth Holmes, General Manager – NRL Football Operations, said the jersey presentation was a special moment for the current and past players.
“Quentin has that Canberra connection and also with Lachlan’s family. He achieved a great deal in the game and is now doing some amazing things at Manly in the wellbeing space,’’ Holmes said.
“The playing group have a lot of respect for Quentin, not just as a former great of the game himself, but some of the work he is doing now.
“Getting to know Joel over the last few months, you could see the passion he has for Manly. With ‘Beaver’ being his childhood idol, and the fact they play in the same position, it made it an easy decision.
“It is important when a player achieves a milestone, or the club, and team achieves a milestone, that we take this time to recognise these things.
“I’m really big on making sure our players can be educated as they can be about the history that has come before them, but also some of the history they are creating themselves.”