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Ryan Crotty eyeing All Blacks jumper
February 11, 2013
The Crusaders' Ryan Crotty feels the force of the Blues' defence, Blues v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, February 24, 2012
Ryan Crotty is now a marked man in the Crusaders' colours. © Getty Images
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Ryan Crotty hopes the rewards he has reaped with loyalty include an All Blacks jumper.

His career with the Crusaders was at the crossroads two years ago, the arrival of Sonny Bill Williams denying him the No.12 jersey he coveted, and he made only three starts in 18 games.

But he stayed loyal to his roots and now he has first rights to the No.12 jumper after an outstanding 2012 for the Crusaders and also for ITM Cup Premiership winners Canterbury.

Crotty captained the Crusaders for the first time in their second pre-season match against the Highlanders in Oamaru on Friday, in recognition of his seniority within the side. He was proud to be skipper even as the Highlanders won 38-21.

"It was pretty cool, pretty special," Crotty said of the captaincy. "Mum and dad came down and watched and were pretty stoked, and I guess for me it was an opportunity to develop that side of my game. Being a leader in the team is something I really enjoy. I'm pretty good mates with the older fellas, and I'm still young enough to be among the young blokes. I want to help get the team to bond and play."

Crotty said the Crusaders were unconcerned by trial losses to the Hurricanes and the Highlanders, noting they would have their All Blacks available for their final pre-season hit-out against the Waratahs in Sydney on Thursday.

"The way our season starts [the Crusaders have a first-round bye] we've got that extra week to get the rugby content right so we've spent a bit of time as a team getting our values sorted and doing all that behind-the-scenes stuff," Crotty said.

"We've been trying a few different things and learning from each game. We've got some guys still with niggles and the All Blacks to come back into the group so that's given opportunities for a lot of the academy players."

Crotty says he is ready to step higher again after his game improved in 2012.

"This season is really about knocking on that All Blacks door and really performing well for the Crusaders first and foremost and nailing down that 12 jersey. I always want to get better and keep sharpening the blade. I felt my game picked up at the back end of the Super competition last season when I got an opportunity. And I felt I was really sharp through the ITM Cup and helped [Canterbury] to get over the line. Now I want to kick on and really establish myself as a senior player and play consistently well every week."

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