Cronk not going anywhere yet
Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk admits his future lies in Sydney when he finishes his career with more than 300 Telstra Premiership appearances to his name for the Melbourne Storm.
Various media reports had speculated that the joint-Dally M player of the year was considering retirement following the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, despite having another year left on his contract under Craig Bellamy at the Storm.
Speaking at the 2017 Holden State of Origin launch in Sydney, Cronk poured cold water over the prospect of ending his career prematurely in a bid to move closer to family and explore work in the media.
“I'm not sure where those media reports are coming from, but I'm comfortable with where I am at the moment,” Cronk said.
“There's no doubt I will move to Sydney [eventually], it's where my future is, my fiancé is and hopefully some opportunities post-football will come up.
“But whether that’s in 12 months' time, two years or five years … I can't answer that question.”
Cronk turns 34 in December and with Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston announcing his departure from the representative arena, the Storm veteran was in no mood to follow suit.
“We're all turning 34 at some stage this year, so natural progression will mean you’re coming closer to the end than the beginning but everyone is on their own individual journey.
“Cameron [Smith], Billy [Slater] and myself don't ever talk about it.
“I'm sure Johnathan [Thurston] sat down with the closest people to him and made that decision.
“Everyone's different … for me I'm very comfortable with where I'm at in my career playing-wise, so I don’t see my future changing dramatically anytime soon.
“I haven't had that conversation and as I sit here today, I love playing football and love playing Origin so as long as I warrant selection, I don't see that changing anytime soon.”
Sending off Thurston a winner in two home games at Suncorp Stadium will be a priority for the Maroons, although Cronk insists that type of mentality can only get you so far.
“We've had some success in sending off some great players from the Origin arena like Darren Lockyer, Petero [Civoniceva] and Justin Hodges more recently," he said.
“Hopefully we can do the same for Johnathan, but I know the reasons why we were successful in sending off those other greats – while there was that occasion for them, it was about doing the role for them.
“The way you win football games is not doing for them, it's by applying yourself, working for your teammate and doing your role to make your teammate a better player.”
The smell of State of Origin around the corner still enthuses the Maroons halfback, despite his dominant record against the Blues in which Queensland have won 15 from 19 games with Cronk in the side.
“There's still a lot of football to be played and things can change, but for me watching the highlights package [on the big screen at the launch], it starts getting the engine running and the excitement factor goes through the roof," Cronk said.
“It's rugby league at its best … It deserves the exposure and the attention.
“That's the best thing about Origin, it's tests you physically and it tests you mentally.
“New South Wales will be a tremendous team this year with their depth.
“I don't think [the Blues team] will change too much, while Paul Gallen won't be running out on the field, I suggest he will still be in and around the team helping out where he can.
“They've got talent in the fullback position with Jarryd Hayne, Matt Moylan and James Tedesco alone.”
The Maroons copped a double-blow two months out from the opening game with Greg Inglis and Matt Scott both suffering long-term injuries, however Cronk was confident in the depth north of the border.
“I don't think it adds more pressure … but it's a massive setback," he said.
“Greg Inglis is the type of player can turn the game on its head with one act and Matt Scott has been front and centre of our engine room for a long time, so it's almost impossible to replace them.
"I'm sure the selectors will find someone to come in and do their job and as senior players it's our responsibility to educate them on Origin and fast-track their understanding of how we want to play."