Cronk and Friend strike up a beautiful friendship

Cooper Cronk without Cameron Smith. Jake Friend without Mitchell Pearce. 

That hasn't happened in 12 years and 10 years respectively but it's happening in this 2018 Telstra Premiership Finals Series.

The hookers and halfbacks touch the ball the most and usually have a fair say in any game result.

It's a partnership that produces premierships – think Danny Buderus-Andrew Johns; Steve Walters-Ricky-Stuart; and you can add Smith-Cronk and Friend-Pearce to that list.

But in one season Cronk and Friend have formed a partnership strong enough to give the Sydney Roosters a foot in the door for a crack at a second NRL title in five years.

Cronk says it's hard to pinpoint when the No.9-No.7 combo clicks tight.

"How long is a piece of string? You could say it normally takes a year or two but the answer is it takes how much time you're willing to put into it," Cronk told NRL.com.

"It's how much repetition you put into it, how much feeling and conversations you have.

"It definitely helps when you win some games and feel some confidence."

Linking with Friend in the Roosters pre-season wasn't completely alien to Cronk. The pair worked together in Queensland Origin camps when Friend was 18th man and during the 2016 Four Nations series.

Cronk has always liked what he's seen, and now experiences first-hand.

"First and foremost about Jake Friend is that he's willing to do anything and everything for his team to be successful. He probably sacrifices his own game for the betterment of the team," Cronk said.

"If you watch any of our games you'll see Jake cleaning up, protecting, supporting his mates, whether it's with or without the ball, more than any player on this football team.

"When you've got your captain doing that, it is inspirational for everyone else.

"Secondly, in terms of the combination, I like to give a lot of control to the No.9 – 'You go do what you need to do; you develop the ruck speed; you do the plays you need to'.

"And then I worry about when I need to get the ball to our extremities. The combination between us two is communication and body language.

"He's got a great understanding of that now. It's got to the stage that when the ball is played in a certain field position, Jake and I both know what we're both going to do.

"Before it might have been that we needed to practise situations more."

From Friend's point of view, it is also a pleasure to watch Cronk play his trade so clinically.

Roosters co-captain Jake Friend.
Roosters co-captain Jake Friend. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"I love his calmness and professionalism," Friend told NRL.com.

"He probably doesn't even know it but the way he goes about things makes me want to be better and be more effective like him.

"He's probably affected a lot of boys in our footy team like that, not just me.

"But footy-wise it's taken awhile between us as we tried some stuff out. But now we know what we want to do, it's been really good this back end of the year," Friend said.

"He's been one of this era's best players and for us he's going to be a big part of our finals series.

"He's proven in big games; he's gets it done. I'm excited to be there with him.

 

Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series