62 Coop to rule the Roost

Sunday Herald Sun - - SPORT - PETER BADEL

BILLY Slater says Cooper Cronk’s de­par­ture is the big­gest loss in Mel­bourne’s 20year his­tory, and the Roost­ers re­cruit could be the X-fac­tor that de­rails the Storm’s quest for back-to-back pre­mier­ships.

Cronk led the Storm to grand fi­nal glory only five weeks ago, and now Slater fears the cham­pion half­back will make the Roost­ers a le­git­i­mate force next year.

Slater has seen a slew of big­name stars like Matt Or­ford and Greg Inglis de­part dur­ing his 15 sea­sons at Mel­bourne, while he, Cronk and Cameron Smith amassed 980 games as the Big Three, driv­ing Storm’s ti­tle dom­i­nance.

Full­back Slater con­ceded Cronk’s exit cut deep­est, and the Roost­ers would profit from break­ing up Mel­bourne’s record-break­ing trio.

“Cooper is a ma­jor threat to us next year,” Slater said.

“He still has that drive to play and I re­spect his de­ci­sion to leave us and play on.

“He will be suc­cess­ful no mat­ter where he is. He is such a com­peti­tor and, be­cause he is so pro­fes­sional, he is go­ing to make the Roost­ers a bet­ter club. They will be a real threat next year.

“It’s go­ing to be weird play­ing along­side Cooper next sea­son ... I have never played a game of foot­ball against Coop, and I’ve been play­ing in the NRL for 15 years.” AUS­TRALIA smashed min­nows Le­banon 34-0 in the Rugby League World Cup but are fac­ing a front-row cri­sis af­ter David Klem­mer and Aaron Woods were re­ported in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents in Syd­ney.

Else­where, Tonga stunned New Zealand with a stir­ring 28-22 come-from-be­hind win in Hamilton.

Kan­ga­roos James Maloney and Matt Gil­lett tackle Le­banon’s An­thony Lay­oun dur­ing the home side’s 34-0 rout at Al­lianz Sta­dium in Syd­ney last night. Pic­ture: GETTY IM­AGES

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