Storm out to end Cronk's career on a sour note

Operation end Cooper's career. Once the architect of their success, the Melbourne Storm will head to Sydney on Saturday hoping to close the curtain on of the most decorated careers in rugby league a week ahead of schedule.

"I hope so," Bellamy said after Saturday night’s win against Parramatta. "I’m sure he doesn’t."

A lot has been made of Cameron Smith’s relationship with Cooper Cronk since the halfback’s departure from Melbourne at the end of 2017, and the Storm skipper didn’t want to add further fuel to the fire when asked about his feelings towards the possibility of sending Cronk into retirement next week.

"I’m not even going to touch that," Smith said, laughing.

When pressed on the impact Cronk’s potential exit from the game could have on the Roosters leading into their preliminary final at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Melbourne No.9 believes the home side will have added inspiration.

"Of course, they will," Smith said.

"He’s been a great player for the Roosters over the near two seasons he’s played there. Just as important as he was with us.

"It’s an extremely important position that he plays in. We wouldn’t have had the success here without him, and I daresay it would be the same for the Roosters for the two seasons he’s played there.

"Guys like myself, Billy Slater, Will Chambers – we were very lucky to play alongside him for a long time. Everyone knows he was a crucial part of our success here.  The achievements that he’s achieved, they are there in writing. They speak for themselves, what he’s done in the game.

"But our focus isn’t going to be on them. Whatever is happening with their team and their players – we can’t control that. We can’t concern ourselves with it. We need to concern ourselves with our own preparation this week."

Smith has been involved in many farewell games throughout his career, playing in Billy Slater’s last game and many other retiring Queensland legends in the State of Origin arena.

He knows first-hand how powerful a motivator that can be.

"In general, you want to send your teammates out on a high," he said.

"But I’m thinking that if I’m in the Roosters camp they’re not thinking this is going to be their last game. Same mindset we’ll have. We’re not travelling up to Sydney thinking this will be our last game."

The Storm will head to Sydney buoyed by their performance against the Eels, but more importantly the fluency of their new-look halves combination.

However, Bellamy admitted halfback Jahrome Hughes was almost ruled out of the game during the week after suffering what the club originally thought was a torn ACL.

"On our first session this week, Jahrome had a collision with another player and our physio thought he did his ACL," Bellamy said.

"Crofty [Brodie Croft] was in, basically. He finished the rest of the session. Obviously the injury wasn’t as bad as our physio thought. Jahrome trained [on Saturday] and I thought he was outstanding [against Parramatta]."

Bellamy said his recent choice to opt for Hughes as his first-choice No.7 was not one he took lightly.

"The decision I made was because I thought it was better for the team. Sometimes you get them right, sometimes you get them wrong," he said.

"It’s up to everyone else to have their opinion, whether it’s the right one or wrong on. I want to give them both a wrap. Hughesy was really good tonight and Crofty has handled it really well. He’s trained very well ever since it happened.

"It hasn’t been easy for him for that to happen – but the decision was made with what we thought was best for the team."

 

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