Syd­ney Cronk at­tack

Sunday News - - NRL GRAND FINAL 2017 LEAGUE - CHRIS BAR­RETT AND AN­DREW WEB­STER

A feed­ing frenzy among Syd­ney teams is set to kick off fol­low­ing the fi­nal whis­tle at ANZ Sta­dium tonight after Cooper Cronk was linked with another club on the eve of the NRL grand fi­nal.

Cronulla have al­ready con­firmed their in­ter­est in the Kan­ga­roos half­back, who is play­ing his fi­nal game for Mel­bourne against North Queens­land in the premier­ship de­cider be­fore re-lo­cat­ing to Syd­ney to be closer to his fi­ancee, tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist Tara Rush­ton. There was ram­pant spec­u­la­tion yes­ter­day that he could join the Syd­ney Roost­ers on a one-year con­tract.

The Roost­ers deny there have been any ne­go­ti­a­tions with Cronk’s man­ager, Ge­orge Mimis but, with the 33-year-old yet to re­veal whether he will re­tire or not after this year’s World Cup, he will not be short of suit­ors.

True to form, Cronk has not given his team-mates any in­di­ca­tion of what he will be do­ing next — but it is wrong to sug­gest he is fly­ing by the seat of his pants when it comes to his fu­ture as many have as­sumed.

It is un­der­stood he has two con­tin­gen­cies al­ready mapped out: one if he does de­cide to re­tire with a sig­nif­i­cant role at Fox Sports among his op­tions; and one if he de­cides to play on.

Should he keep play­ing, it would be un­der a coach at a Syd­ney club who he re­spects and can con­tinue to learn from.

Many be­lieve that nar­rows the field to two: Trent Robin­son at the Roost­ers and Cronk’s for­mer as­sis­tant coach at the Storm, newly ap­pointed Souths coach An­thony Sei­bold, who is also the Queens­land as­sis­tant coach.

Souths are adamant they have no room un­der the salary cap to sign a player of Cronk’s stand­ing. The Roost­ers don’t ei­ther. Half­back Mitchell Pearce has been re­signed for another two years. Five-eighth Luke Keary is con- tracted to the end of next sea­son.

That said, Roost­ers chair­man Nick Poli­tis likes to win and Cronk is a proven win­ner.

There could also be a cor­po­rate role avail­able when Cronk re­tires. He has made no se­cret of his de­sire to pur­sue a ca­reer in busi­ness in re­tire­ment and the Roost­ers board — headed by Poli­tis — is the best con­nected in the city.

Long-time team-mate Billy Slater said it would be ‘‘weird’’ play­ing against Cronk but he and ev­ery­one at Mel­bourne re­main in the dark about the No7’s in­ten­tions. ‘‘Hon­estly, we don’t even know what he’s go­ing to do,’’ Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy said.

If he does ex­tend his ca­reer with a Syd­ney club they will be get­ting more than just one of the mod­ern game’s great­est play­mak­ers.

Cronk’s in­flu­ence in Mel­bourne has stretched well be­yond his al­most un­ri­valled abil­ity to steer a team around the park.

Storm cen­tre Will Cham­bers paid Cronk an enor­mous com­pli­ment be­fore the grand fi­nal, say­ing he had con­trib­uted to shap­ing him as the per­son he is to­day.

‘‘I came down here at the end of 2006 and I was then told that I was stay­ing full­time. I had nowhere to stay so Cooper gave up a room in his house for me to live,’’ Cham­bers said.

‘‘I ended up liv­ing with him for three years and got to know Coo- The Sun-Her­ald GETTY IM­AGES per very well.

‘‘He’s been such a big role model and men­tor in my footy ca­reer and to do this day he helps with my footy and tries to im­prove me.

‘‘But more im­por­tantly he’s prob­a­bly helped cre­ate me to be the man I am to­day and I’m for­ever thank­ful for that.

‘‘He’s go­ing to be a very missed per­son at this or­gan­i­sa­tion.’’

Cooper Cronk will have plenty of op­tions fol­low­ing tonight’s grand fi­nal.

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