We often question the commitment to the game of some players, and justifiably so at times, but there is no chance of levelling any such criticism at Canterbury’s latest signing, outgoing Penrith star Stephen Crichton.
He has just completed a marathon effort since helping the Panthers to their grand-final victory over the Eels in 2022.
Just look at his punishing schedule that commenced in mid-October last year:
• Six games at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup, as Toa Samoa made it all the way to the decider;
• The World Club Challenge match-up against St Helens, lost by the Panthers in extra time;
• 24 games for the Panthers across the 2023 season, including three finals matches, as they won their third consecutive title;
• Three games for NSW in the 2023 State of Origin series; and
• Two games for Samoa in the 2023 Pacific Championship.
That is a total of 36 games and he would have played every minute of every game.
Probably the only other player to go close to Crichton’s marathon effort is fellow Panther and Samoan teammate Brian To’o.
That is some effort from Critter, and a testament to not only his fitness and resilience but also his love of the game and his rapid emergence as a superstar over the last couple of years.
Over the last 12 months, Crichton has established himself as arguably the number one centre in the game and has also shown that he is a more than handy fullback when given the opportunity, no doubt something that was very attractive to the management at Belmore.
He is also developing into a deadly goal kicker, and is a big game specialist, scoring a try in each of the last four grand-finals.
He will be one of the first players picked when Origin 2024 comes around, regardless of the fitness of the likes of former NSW favourites Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell. Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga would just love to see him make himself available for Australia at some stage.
It is hard to find a fault in Crichton’s game. He plays both sides of the field with aplomb, is a powerful runner, has great footwork, works well with support players, has excellent aerial skills, and there would be very few players capable of running him down if he gets into the clear.
On top of that, he is one of the best defenders in the game and looks to be a potential leader at the Bulldogs.
It has been quite a year for Crichton, and a busy one at that, and I cannot recall an NRL player racking up that many games in a twelve-month period in recent times.
He looks to be the Dogs’ best signing since Brett Morris way back in 2015, and he should play a big part in dragging the team up the premiership ladder.