Sam Croke finds new home in competitive Aussie 7s squad
Former Randwick backrower Sam Croke has found a new home in the Australian Sevens squad but believes he still has a long road ahead of him as he tries to play his way into the match day squad in 2018.
After spending two years in the Australian U20s program, Croke earned his first full time professional contact late last year after a number of impressive seasons for Randwick and the NSW Country Eagles.
“It’s taken a little while but I’ve enjoyed every step of the way and fortunately I’ve been able to find my little niche in Sevens where I sort of fit the mould of what they are looking for,” he said.
“I got a chance to focus on Sevens for a few months last year and thankfully something eventuated and now I just want to make the most of it.”
Despite his impressive club form, the tall, lean backorder struggled to crack the professional XVs ranks in recent years and admitted his physique is probably more suited to the seven a side game.
“Obviously XVs is becoming more and more physical and the blokes are just getting bigger and bigger and that created a lot of competition for spots, particularly in the backrow,” the 23-year old said.
“It seemed like I was hearing the same thing all the time from coaches about my size but in Sevens, it’s more about what you can produce on the track in terms of your speed, endurance and skills and I’ve really enjoyed that. It just feels a bit more natural and I really enjoy the freedom you get with just seven blokes on the field.”
Croke is one of a number of new faces in a young Australian squad and while he said he’s already learnt a lot from the older players in the group, he said he’s still adjusting to the shorter form of the game.
“I’ve had to shed a little bit of weight because a couple of kilos can make a big difference. I’ve also had to really hone in on a few technical aspects of my running to be able to run faster and for longer and I think I’m starting to get that now,” he said.
The Lennox Head junior will feature in a new look Aussie 7s squad at this weekend’s Hottest 7s in Darwin, with Andy Friend opting to give a handful of players one last chance to impress ahead of the Sydney 7s on the Australia Day long weekend.
“I think there are still one or two spots up for grabs for Sydney but more so, I’m just looking forward to getting some game time after the Christmas break. I didn’t play in the first two World Series tournaments so I’m just really excited to get the chance to play some footy,” he said.
While Croke said he’d love to get the chance to play for Australia on home soil, his ultimate goal was to break into the Australian squad for a World Series tournament in 2018.
“We’ve got quite a few tournaments left this year and a few big ones with the Comm Games and the World Cup, but my first priority is to try and get a start and show what I can do on the World Series.”
While it’s unlikely that he’ll return to play for Randwick this season, Croke said he was expecting big things from the Galloping Greens in 2018.
“There has been a bit of a restructure in the coaching staff with Owen Finegan and Patrick Phipps stepping in and there’s a really good vibe around the place at the moment. They’re back training this week and hopefully they can go a couple of games better this year and give the finals a good crack.”