The Per­fec­tion­ist

Track­ing Cronk’s re­mark­able rise from plumber to prodigy to play­maker ex­traor­di­naire

Rugby League Week - - News - BY JOEL GOULD

HE WAS ONCE AN ap­pren­tice plumber who’d lock him­self in the car to avoid the dirt­i­est jobs.

Fast for­ward 14 years and Cooper Cronk is now the key to un­lock­ing the NRL grand fi­nal as the Storm pre­pare to get down and dirty with the Sharks.

Cronk’s for­mer men­tor Matthew Johns in­sists the 32-year-old, who starred in his 300th NRL game against the Raiders last Satur­day, is at the peak of his pow­ers and get­ting bet­ter.

“A lot of peo­ple want to look for the magic dust and Cooper’s se­cret,” Johns tells RLW.

“But Cooper’s se­cret is that he just works harder on his game than any­one I’ve ever seen.

“This year his form is the equal of any sea­son he’s played and he’s even got bet­ter in var­i­ous facets. He used to get re­ally frus­trated when the op­po­si­tion shut down cer­tain things in his game but now there’s a Plan B.

“But the key with him is that most un­der-rated thing in sport, and that’s con­sis­tency and re­li­a­bil­ity.

“He’s a per­fec­tion­ist who picks up the flaws in his own game he needs to work on, and com­bines that with a great work ethic on top of that.

“To play 300 NRL games, at his stan­dard, is just an un­be­liev­able achieve­ment.”

Cronk was an ap­pren­tice plumber work­ing for Norths Devils as­sis­tant coach Kevin Carmichael in 2002 where two things be­came clear to the for­mer Crush­ers and Storm half­back – his re­mark­able de­sire to make it as a foot­baller and his lack of in­ter­est in plumb­ing.

“He was a very good foot­baller,” Carmichael grins when asked about Cronk’s plumb­ing cre­den­tials.

“Cooper would be keen to take his shirt off to do any dig­ging jobs but with any real bad dirty jobs he’d run a mile.

“We did a job at this school once where I had to put a spe­cial suit on to get into a tank. I told him to get suited up and he went out to the

“He used to get re­ally frus­trated when the op­po­si­tion shut down cer­tain things in his game but now there’s a Plan B” – Matthew Johns

car, locked the doors and wouldn’t get out. He said, ‘I’m not get­ting in there for all the money in the world’.

“But as a foot­baller he’d train his arse off and had an un­be­liev­able at­ti­tude.

“The thing that got me is that in our Mon­day night video ses­sions he’d never speak for the sake of it, but when he did he’d hit the nail on the head about what we needed to do.

“We had him in the cen­tres, halves, full­back or back row. He was all over the shop and some­times that can be to your detri­ment when you are try­ing to nail down a spot.

“But he was just so com­mit­ted to suc­ceed.”

Bron­cos premier­ship win­ner Terry Mat­ter­son was Norths CEO and head coach in 2002. He’d be in his of­fice and look out on the train­ing pad­dock and see Cronk re­peat­ing his drills in the hot Bris­bane sun.

“Cooper would al­ways be at the club do­ing ex­tras and push­ing him­self to the limit with all the phys­i­cal stuff,” Mat­ter­son re­calls.

“He was just so com­pet­i­tive and hun­gry to make it, and that has got him to where he is.”

300 NOT OUT Cooper Cronk was at his schem­ing best last Satur­day as he cel­e­brated his 300th NRL game with a try and a trip to a sixth grand fi­nal.

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