Papua New Guinea
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NRL Grand Final a special one for Crichton

His teammates call him “a freak of nature” and the best athlete they’ve ever seen, so it’s no surprise that Stephen Crichton has no time for gaming consoles as he looks to etch his name into the rugby league record books.

Crichton, 23, will play his 100th game for Penrith in Sunday’s grand final, and it’ll also be his last with the strike centre off to Canterbury where he’s expected to play fullback.

Sunday’s farewell means many different things to different players, but for Crichton, it presents an opportunity to score a try in four-straight grand finals – something only one other player has achieved.

That was St George Dragons legend Johnny King, who crossed in six-straight grand finals from 1960-65, while Parramatta’s Brett Kenny holds his own unique record having scored doubles in three-straight deciders.

Crichton has the chance to score for a fourth consecutive year on the biggest stage, having touched down in 2020 in a loss before he jagged the intercept to sink Souths in 2021 and then opened the scoring last year.

A slice of history beckons, but the man himself was shocked when told about the stat.

“I haven’t thought about that and I hadn’t even heard about that,” he said when told about what King and Kenny achieved.

“It’s about the team and what we can produce on the weekend.

“(The try against Souths) was probably No.1 because I did it in a grand final.

“We were coming back from a grand final loss the year before that, so this one meant a lot
more. Scoring that try and getting the win was pretty special.”

Crichton is no stranger to producing the big plays, having done it for Samoa at last year’s World Cup, and the two-time premiership winner’s success can be traced back to an active childhood where all he wanted to do was play sport.

At 193cm and 99kg, Crichton is a nightmare for defenders on the edge given his aerial ability, speed and nifty footwork.

He can do things that other players only dream about, and that’s because he spent his childhood on a footy field instead of in his room mashing the joystick on a PlayStation.

“I wouldn’t say I dominated everything, but I played a lot of sports when I was a kid like footy, basketball, volleyball and pretty much any sport with a ball,” he said.

“I was an outside person when I was younger. I hated PS3 or PS4 and playing games like that. I still don’t play any of those.

“Spencer (Leniu) and some of the boys play all those games and I take the piss out of those guys and tell them to add me even though I don’t have an account.”

Teammate Liam Martin has seen Crichton do some wild things on the basketball court and is predicting the Belmore-bound star to become a scratch golfer by the end of the year even though he only recently started playing.

“He’s a freak of nature,” the back-rower said.

“We’ve got a little basketball hoop in the gym, and you watch what he can do with a basketball and you just go ‘oh my god, what can’t this kid do?’

“I think he’s taken up golf now and I’ll give him two months before he’s a freak at that as well. He’s just an incredible athlete.”

The local junior has all the tools to dominate the game for another decade at all levels, with his work between the ears matching what he can do with his feet and hands.

“Just looking at him, he’s the best athlete I’ve ever played with. Some of the stuff he can do is crazy,” champion halfback Nathan Cleary said.

“I think he only just turned 23 the other day, so it’s pretty unbelievable.

“I think the most impressive thing about him is that he’s an athlete and he’s naturally gifted, but the head on his shoulders is (so mature).

“The work that he puts in is second to none.

He works so hard on his game and he’s constantly trying to get better. It’s no wonder he’s still on that upward trajectory.”