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Lachlan Croker overcomes battle scars to take top honour

Lachlan Croker has always had to fight hard during his playing career but on Monday night, he had to dig even deeper against a surprised opponent.

For a player who plays well above his 92kg weight and finished fourth this season on the NRL ladder for most tackles, Croker is used to taking down bigger men.

However, the opposition this time, though, came from within as he fought off his emotions after accepting the club’s top honour…the Best and Fairest award for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles for season 2022.

Croker had an incredible season in his 23 games, making 902 kicking metres, a staggering 943 tackles, and a career high 822 running metres to be a well-deserved winner.

Following the presentation at The Star Sydney, Croker was heavily embraced by his delighted team-mates who have experienced first hand his commitment and dedication to succeed at hooker after arriving at Manly as an NRL five-eighth/half.

His only wish on the night was that his parents were present rather than sitting back home in the small historic town of Crookwell in the ‘freezing cold’.

Proud moment...Lachlan Croker receives his Best and Fairest award from Coach Des Hasler.
Proud moment...Lachlan Croker receives his Best and Fairest award from Coach Des Hasler. ©NRL Photos

Furthermore, what 25-year-old Croker has been through – three knee reconstructions, hamstrings, to just plain rotten bad luck – would have ended the careers of many battle scarred players.

Through true grit, Croker has developed his craft and has now become a genuine number nine.

He may not be an outright match winner or have the flair like some specialist big name NRL premiership hookers, but what he displays constantly each week is sheer courage and endless energy to get through a mountain of work for the Sea Eagles.

For Croker, it’s all about the passion.

“I just love playing footy with the boys. If I didn’t take the opportunity to play hooker here at Manly, then who knows where I was going to go,’’ a proud Croker said.

“If the (coaches) told me to play front row, I would have played front row.

"I love sitting up in the change rooms after a game looking at the boys talking about stuff that happened, and then going for a beer afterwards.

Roy Bull Best & Fairest Award Winner: Lachlan Croker

“It makes me very worried about what happens when footy’s over and I don’t get to have those conversations sitting around in those environments.

“But I wake up every morning and that’s all that I want to do. That’s why I play footy and that’s why I love it so much.

“That was the dream of the kid from Crookwell. All he wanted to do was get around the boys and play footy.

“If he could see what’s going on now, it would all be worth it.”

Like any excited athlete who wins an award, Croker couldn’t wait to be able to show it to his parents as he took in the moment with his devoted partner, Abbey, after openly talking about his endless love for the Sea Eagles in his emotional speech.

“Winning this award means so much...I just think of all the people who helped get me here like Mum, Dad, and Abbey,'' Croker added.

“The journey we have been on has had a lot of ups and downs. To be able to play some footy and be part of a really good team makes it all worthwhile. I’m just stoked. This award is just as much as for them as it is for me.

Soulmates....Lachlan Croker with long time partner, Abbey, at the club presentation night.
Soulmates....Lachlan Croker with long time partner, Abbey, at the club presentation night. ©NRL Photos

“Abbey has been with me for the best part of eight-and-a-half years and has been there from the start. She has seen the ups and downs, the tears and the tantrums, and fortunately some good stuff as well.”

Croker also took home the Steve Menzies Medallion for the team’s Play of the Year for his superb 40/20 kick and two great tries against the Nth Qld Cowboys at 4 Pines Park in round 15.

“It was another one of those ones where I was lucky to have special people there watching. I can only imagine how they were feeling watching me run around with a smile on my face,’’ Croker said.

Menzies Medal Winner: Lachlan Croker

“They don’t happen often and they may not happen ever again. They are highlights that I replay in my head quite often and is something again I’m really proud of.

“The way footy goes sometimes, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Fortunately, the last couple of years has been a lot more good than bad for me personally.

“However, I’d give it all away for the team to be doing better than we did this season. That’s our goal next year and that’s all I want.”


Acknowledgement of Country

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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