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