Sydney Cronk attack
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.