Most days when he is not training, you’ll find Thomas Cronan serving beers behind the bar at the Queens Wharf Hotel.
Which is probably where he would have been on Wednesday had it not been for a surprise call-up into the Newcastle Knights squad for the trial against Melbourne in Melbourne.
Cronan, who linked with the Knights from the Canberra Raiders during last season, was the only part-timer in coach Nathan Brown’s 26-man squad and says he got as big a shock as anyone else with his selection.
He admits most Knights fans would have been saying “Thomas who?” when they saw his name on the players’ list.
But Cronan made the most of the unexpected chance, playing the final 30 minutes on the wing and coming up with the match-winning try at the death against the defending premiers.
“Jack Cogger created it with a great cut-out pass and I just had to pretty much catch it and fall over the line but it was still a good feeling getting the try to win it,”the 21-year-old said.
“Just to get the opportunity to travel with all the boys down to Melbourne was a great experience.”
Cronan grew up in snow country in Jindabyne and played in the juniors with the Raiders but wasn’t getting a run in their NSW Cup side last season when Knights assistant coach Simon Woolford enquired why.
“He offered me an opportunity here so I jumped at it,”Cronan said.
“I’m on a part-time contract and bar-tending and working 30-40 hours a week and I’m really enjoying being here. I’m loving Newy and the boss really looks after me with fitting in shifts around training and footy.
“I think I ended up playing the last 11 games on the wing in NSW Cup last season but we have got a bit of depth now with a few boys coming through so I want to make sure I do everything possible to establish myself in the side.”
Woolford said Cronan’s selection was a reward for the hard work he has put into training during the off-season.
“He is a good young guy with a great attitude and Browny was happy to give him the opportunity and reward him,”Woolford said.
Cronan, who is working on his 91 kg frame in a bid to bulk up to compete against the bigger wingers in the game, was doing nutrition at university in Canberra before linking with the Knights.
But he has put that on hold while he is here to “give footy a decent crack”.
“I’m 22 this year so it’s an important season for me to try and kick on, improve every week and try and establish myself,” he said.
“The focus for me now will be taking as much as I can from the experience in Melbourne and continuing to try and improve.
“Putting on some size has been a goal and I want to try and build up some more.”