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SportCooper Cronk's pending retirement will leave big gap, teammates say

18:06  21 may  2019
18:06  21 may  2019 Source:

Cronk ponders landmark, NRL future

Cronk ponders landmark, NRL future Cooper Cronk has enjoyed a trip down memory lane before his landmark 356th NRL game but is yet to confirm whether he will draw the curtain on his career. Almost 20 years after running around for the Queensland Cup club, Cronk is primed to leapfrog Brisbane great Darren Lockyer (355 games) and trail just ex-Storm teammate Cameron Smith (392g) on the all-time appearance list. "To pass Darren's milestone in Queensland is fitting in a regard but I take 356 games like I did others," Cronk said. "But there are fond memories coming back here (Bishop Park). This is where it all started.

COOPER Cronk has become the first player in the history of the NRL to win back-to-back grand finals with rival clubs in a famous moment of rugby league folklore. His injury secret was finally revealed just minutes after the full time siren when captain Boyd Cordner revealed the star playmaker had no right

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Cooper Cronk was the outsider when he quit the Melbourne Storm for the Roosters, but 18 months later, he is leaving a lasting mark on the Sydney-based club.

On Monday, the 35-year-old announced his retirement at season's end, having already clocked up 357 games — the second-highest number in NRL history.

"It's been one a hell of a ride," Cronk said at the SCG on Monday.

After 14 seasons with the Storm, the Brisbane-born Cronk was ushered into the Roosters' line-up in 2018 to replace the enigmatic halfback, Mitchell Pearce.

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It was both an upsetting and awkward time for Cronk and his future eastern suburbs team mate.

"You can't pick and choose who you want to play with," Roosters captain Boyd Cordner said.

Cooper Cronk's pending retirement will leave big gap, teammates say © Getty Images Cooper Cronk "Higher up [management] decided to go with Cooper and it was very disappointing to see a good mate go in Mitchell Pearce."

Pearce was no longer wanted by the Roosters after a string of off-field indiscretions.

"There were circumstances there," Roosters hooker Jake Friend said.

"The day he got to the Roosters it was business as usual — then you learn you can't fault Cooper as a footballer and a man."

Team mates of Cronk, who is a three-time premiership player, are now lamenting his pending retirement after a short but successful stint with the boys from Bondi.

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"I thought we had a good culture before he came but he's added since he's been here," Cordner said.

"It's sad to see him go, but it's been a pleasure — he's a true gentleman, his values and morals are higher than anyone else's and I'm proud to call him a mate too."

'You just go numb'

For now, Cronk is focused on back-to-back titles before retirement forces change.

And it's a seismic change, as former Kangaroo, Luke Lewis, knows all too well.

The two-time premiership player, who retired from the NRL at the end of last season, knows what it's like to have football suddenly removed from your routine.

"It's very scary when you get to the end, when you hang up your boots and that last game's played you feel hollow, you really do, you just go numb," Lewis told the Grandstand podcast, Winning Starts on Monday.

"Everything I've done my whole life, my goals I've set have all been based around rugby league so for Cooper, he's a massive goal-setter, so he's going to feel a bit empty when he gets to the end."

Cronk faces the truth about his legacy

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Cronk's lasting impression

In more than 100 years of rugby league, only eight players have been granted the game's ultimate status as an immortal, with Newcastle legend, Andrew Johns, the last to be anointed in 2012.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson said when the time comes, Cronk — a two-time Dally M winner — deserves to have his name added to that illustrious list.

His captain agrees.

"He's definitely got the credentials to be an immortal, playing with him and the career he's had I don't think anybody could dream of those accolades," said Cornder.

Cronk's commitment to his new club — on and off the field — has left a lasting impression on his Roosters teammates.

In last year's grand final, he played with a 10-centimetre fracture in his shoulder blade.

The Roosters claimed the premiership over Cronk's former side, the Melbourne Storm, by 21 points to six.

"It's amazing, mind-blowing to think how he got himself up for that game," Cordner added.

"We knew how bad the injury was — we were preparing to be without him — but it goes to show what the bloke's all about his leadership and presence helped us win that night.

The teenage sensation the Roosters have identified to replace Cooper Cronk

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Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says Cooper Cronk is selling himself short when he calls himself the 'third wheel' among the big three. At 35, Cronk will leave with more than 350 games to his name, 323 of which came with the Storm, where he played in four winning grand finals.

Cooper Cronk has said there is no hostility between him and former Melbourne, Queensland and Kangaroos teammate Cameron Smith. Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith mending relationship fences. Together they ruled the NRL landscape, but a rumoured rift between the two saw them drift.

"That is heroic and something I'll never forget and will go down in the history books."

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'Very much a Rooster': Sydney coach Trent Robinson lauds Knights half Mitchell Pearce.
'Very much a Rooster': Sydney coach Trent Robinson lauds Knights half Mitchell Pearce

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