He is a 17-year-old with big aspirations and his sights set on a long and successful football career.
nib Newcastle Knights Under 18s captain Matthew Croker was one of the big winners at the Knights junior presentation night on Monday, taking home the Carlson Club award and the prestigious SG Ball player of the year.
“I feel very privileged and it was an awesome night,” said Croker.
“It was really unexpected, I didn’t think I had the best season but it was a great finish to the night.”
Despite a strong season for the young forward, who is the only Knights SG Ball player to be selected in the Under 18s NSW Origin side, he admits he’s always trying to improve his game.
“You always have to learn from where you go wrong and I started this year to do a bit more research on myself and the team and how we could improve,” explained Croker.
“Learning is probably a big one and I’m sure that will help me throughout the rest of my career and looking back on my mistakes and just seeing what I can do to better them.”
Croker said he's thankful for his massive support network that has got him this far.
“My house carer and the two blokes I live with and play with on the weekend, even Renae and Kent always looking after me,” commented Croker.
“Of course my two beautiful parents, I don’t get to see them every day as I’d like to but just to text them and give them a ring every now and then and hear mums voice, just crack a joke with dad it is always pleasing.”
While the Knights Under 18s squad struggled in the SG Ball competition this season, Croker earned himself a place in the Club's NYC squad, starting in the number 10 jersey for the Round 9 clash against the Gold Coast Titans.
“I was lucky enough, the first week I was there I was 18th man and the second week I got to make my debut off the bench and had a good game,” Croker smiled.
“I ended up getting a starting spot for the next week so just trying to hold that and looking at the SG Ball boys in the squad just hoping that they’ll get a run soon.
“I am sure they’re not far off it and working really hard and I’m sure Todd (Lowrie) will reward them soon.”
He's also hopeful that he’ll make a strong finish to the year.
“If I could finish this year with a good tail end and go into next year with a lot confidence,” Croker admitted.
“Hopefully I stay injury free, have a real good season and maybe look at having a crack at Reserve Grade if my season is going well enough.”
Croker will train twice with the NSW Under 18s Origin squad before final team selections on June 10 in preparation for their match against Queensland as the Origin 2 curtain raiser.