Cronk Ready For Anzac Day Meeting With Dragons
Cooper Cronk is sizing up his first Roosters-Dragons Anzac Day blockbuster and the showdown with fellow million-dollar half Ben Hunt in the St George Illawarra No.7 jersey that at one point could have been his.
A year before the Dragons went to market and came back with Hunt on a bumper $6 million, six-year deal, Cronk met with Dragons coach Paul McGregor and his recruitment man Ian Millward in early 2016.
The trio broke bread in Melbourne, with the then-off-contract Storm star sure in the knowledge he would be moving to Sydney, but unsure when.
With Cronk unable to commit, St. George-Illawarra rode the swings and roundabouts for another 12 months before landing Hunt, and another year on they sit atop the NRL ladder with the ex-Broncos playmaker in sublime touch.
Cronk has intentionally averted his gaze elsewhere from the NRL's wall-to-wall presence since making his own big-money move to Bondi.
But as the Roosters come off a gut-busting 6-0 shutout of the Bulldogs to entrench themselves in the top eight, he admits Hunt's start to 2018 will have all eyes on the playmaking pair come Anzac Day.
"I'll be honest, I haven't seen a lot of football but for him to be 6-1 he's obviously done something right," Cronk said.
"I can't talk about the skills because I haven't seen it but the ability to go from where he was - the big signing, a big contract - and to be playing obviously well, it takes a lot of courage and a lot of effort on the training paddock to get there.
"I'll do my analysis this week with the coaching staff and see what the strengths and weaknesses are, and it sets us up for a pretty good game doesn't it?"
Cronk will skip a game-day Anzac dawn service next week, having ''not played too well" after rising at 5am once or twice before the annual Storm-Warriors fixture.
And like Hunt's eye-catching start to the season, he hasn't seen too many of the marquee Roosters-Dragons clashes over the years due to the Storm's own Anzac Day games.
They've been fiery affairs on occasion. Two years ago Trent Robinson copped $40,000 in fines for questioning the integrity of referee Ben Cummins, while club patriarch Nick Politis angrily confronted NRL CEO Todd Greenberg in the tunnel after that tense 2016 loss to the Dragons.
Given the status of the day in both rugby league and the wider community, Cronk called for the contest to played in the "right spirit".
"When you've got a sold-out Allianz Stadium and the ceremony beforehand, the atmosphere, the build-up, you do have those niggles and things like that because there's a lot of passion and emotion in the game," Cronk said.
"But it needs to be played in the right spirit. You can go out there as hard and tough and physical as you want, but remember this game's probably bigger than you the individual.
"There's a bit more of a line in terms of the honour and respect that you don't cross the line."