Lachlan Croker is the Sea Eagles quiet achiever.
But last night at 4 Pines Park, the tough, stocky number nine roared loudly.
And what a roar it was, too.
Two tries, 46 tackles, and 133m from kicks. And there was no better kick than his spectacular 40/20 in the 61st minute that, from it, saw Croker duly rewarded with his first try.
It was some celebration too, from his team-mates, for such is the respect the man known as ‘Crokes’ or ‘Toots’ received.
In fact, it almost became a health and safety report when Croker somehow managed to hold on to a leaping Haumole Olakau’atu. Had he not, big ‘Shmole’ could have landed a few rows back in those comfortable seats of the new Bob Fulton Stand for such the energy and excitement he had for his hooker.
Croker's second try came off some smart play when he put a grubber kick through to score under the posts.
But for all that, unfortunately the Sea Eagles didn’t get the win.
Rugby league can be a cruel game at times…Croker duly deserved to walk off a winner last night, as did his team-mates.
For 65 minutes, the Sea Eagles were in control, with Croker playing a major role. That was until the Cowboys from Townsville managed to steal three tries in three minutes to snatch a two-point victory that left Manly, and the crowd of 9226, completely stunned.
The headlines today should be about Croker, a 25-year-old man whose headshot wouldn’t look out of place alongside the word ‘perseverance’ in any dictionary.
What Croker has been through – three knee reconstructions, hamstrings, bad luck,– would have ended most players’ NRL careers.
But not the man from Crookwell. They breed them tough down in those cold winters on the outskirts of Goulburn.
Injuries limited Croker to just 12 games in his first two seasons in the maroon and white, but he has since bounced back through true grit and determination with 20 games in 2020, 26 in 2021, and now 15 in 2022.
You have to remember, Croker is a former six/seven, who was transformed into a hooker at Manly.
He might not be a recognised big name hooker in the NRL, but he has since become the backbone of the Sea Eagles team, a player team-mates know they truly count on during the good and bad times.
His 80 minute effort last night – something he has done for the past nine straight matches - was not lost on Coach Des Hasler.
“Great game. He was fantastic out there. Tonight, he was everywhere. He tackled everything, scored two, and kicked well, plus a 40/20 as well,’’ Hasler said, glowingly.
“He was really solid for us tonight. He has been really consistent the whole year.”
That’s Croker, the ultimate professional and respected clubman just doing what he does best without little fanfare. Just the way he likes it.