Cronk rates him­self a chance but will do best thing for team

Bay of Plenty Times - - SPORT -

Cooper Cronk will test his in­jured shoul­der by tack­ling Dy­lan Napa or other mem­bers of the Syd­ney Roost­ers for­ward pack but the star half­back has backed him­self to play in to­mor­row night’s grand fi­nal against Mel­bourne at ANZ Sta­dium.

Cronk was free of the sling he was wear­ing ear­lier in the week and his range of move­ment had im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly as he fronted a grand fi­nal press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day with mem­bers of the Roost­ers and Storm camps.

Roost­ers coach Trent Robin­son said his “gut feel­ing” was that Cronk would face his for­mer Mel­bourne team-mates but ad­mit­ted: “The av­er­age player wouldn’t play”. Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy and cap­tain Cameron Smith said their first-hand knowl­edge of the 34-year-old’s abil­ity to re­cover from in­jury had con­vinced them he was likely to play. How­ever, Cronk ad­mit­ted he needed fur­ther im­prove­ment be­fore be­ing cleared to play and would not take the field against his for­mer Mel­bourne team-mates un­less he was ca­pa­ble of tack­ling the gi­ant Storm for­wards who will tar­get him in de­fence. “I’ve had a cou­ple of im­prove­ments to­day and I def­i­nitely needed some,” he said. “I think most peo­ple in this room know I’m pretty dili­gent and pretty pro­fes­sional in what I do but I have gone up 1000 knots this week. “It is just about whether I can man­age it — can I deal with the pain and can I get enough range of move­ment and strength to get through a game of foot­ball?

“To be able to do some of the things to get sta­bil­ity, move­ment and range, it’s okay. It’s im­prove­ment. But it’s not enough to tackle Jesse Bromwich or Dale Fin­u­cane so I have got a fair bit of work to do.”

Asked if he would tackle Napa be­fore de­ter­min­ing whether he was fit enough to play, Cronk said: “Yes, it is go­ing to hap­pen on Sun­day so I will have to do some­thing like that. Maybe I can pick a smaller bloke like [Luke] Keary but it is go­ing to get to a point where I have to test it.

He added: “I will tell you right now, the only rea­son I won’t play on Sun­day is be­cause I am phys­i­cally in­ca­pable of do­ing it.”

While Robin­son said the fi­nal de­ci­sion would be made by him­self, Cronk and the doc­tor, the for­mer

Mel­bourne Storm v Syd­ney Roost­ers

10.20pm (NZ day­light time) Sun­day

Live on Sky Sport and Ra­dio Sport. test half­back wants to also con­sult Roost­ers co-cap­tains Boyd Cord­ner and Jake Friend.

“I could make the de­ci­sion my­self with the help of Robbo and the med­i­cal staff but I would like the guys next to me to help me make that de­ci­sion. I will do the right thing by the team,” he said.

Cronk has been work­ing around the clock on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and he said his mind­set had al­ways been that he would play in his eighth grand fi­nal — and the first for the Roost­ers.

“As soon as it hap­pened, I backed my­self. I didn’t even know what was wrong but I backed my­self then,” he said.

Robin­son said emo­tion would not play a role in the de­ci­sion but also backed Cronk to play.

“It’s a gut feel­ing with any player and then the gut feel­ing about Cooper,” he said. “I haven’t seen Cooper with an in­jury but I’ve heard about the sto­ries be­fore, lead­ing into Ori­gin games and stuff.”

Smith re­counted how Cronk had made a faster than ex­pected re­cov­ery from a bro­ken arm dur­ing the 2014 sea­son, while Bel­lamy said he had never known a player as dili­gent about his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. For that rea­son, the Storm are ex­pect­ing Cronk to play and have built their game plan around him be­ing the Roost­ers play­maker. “I’ve been lucky enough to play along­side Cooper for a long time in my ca­reer and there is prob­a­bly not a player who comes to mind that matches his abil­ity to get up from in­jury con­cerns or some ma­jor in­juries that he has had to deal with,” Smith said. “He does ev­ery­thing he pos­si­bly can to get him­self right.

“I guess the one that comes to mind is when he ac­tu­ally missed a cou­ple of games with a frac­tured arm from Ori­gin. He missed three or four weeks with what is usu­ally a six-to-eight-week in­jury. “From my ex­pe­ri­ence, see­ing what he does with his prepa­ra­tion and the type of player that he is, I am not go­ing to be shocked to see him out there. I am ex­pect­ing him to play.”

Brad Wal­ter

Cooper Cronk will test his in­jury by tack­ling his big­gest team-mates.

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