Cronk aims to mark milestone by sealing grand final spot
YOU hear and read all the time about how Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk's kicking game is the best in rugby league.
It's said he could drop the football on a dollar coin nine times out of 10 from 20 or 30 metres away.
The emphasis is often on his sublime ability to kick the Steeden like few others before him.
But the baby-faced kid from Brisbane with the Hollywood looks, initially sent back home by the Melbourne Storm to work on his game, has shown he is much more than a kicker and that his game is also built on toughness and being a perfectionist.
"When he first came here he was just a kid looking for an opportunity to play first grade,” said Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, who was blessed by an influx of players in his early days at the Storm that helped shape the club.
"It's fair to say Cooper had gone a long way with the talent he was born with.”
Cooper works harder than most players on all aspects of his game.
He is the ultimate all-round player, whether he is leading the kick-chase to pin rivals in goal, throwing cut-out passes to teammates or dropping a kick on to a player's chest for a try.
When he becomes the 25th player in rugby league's 300-game club on Saturday night against the Raiders it will be because, like most of the members already in the club, he is mentally and physical strong.
He'll be the third halfback to play 300 games, behind Brett Kimmorley and Scott Prince.
Sometime in 2017 he will claim Kimmorley's all-time record for a halfback of 307 games.
But unlike Kimmorley who tallied his milestone from stints with six NRL clubs, including Melbourne (79 games), Cronk has been a one-club player since making his debut for the Storm in 2004 - forming the Fab Three with fellow Queenslanders Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
That became the Fab Four when a lanky but athletic 18-year-old called Greg Inglis joined them in 2005 out of the North Devils program in Brisbane.
While the significance of playing 300 games is not lost on Cronk, who did not have a position when he landed in Bellamy's care 12 years ago, he realises there's a bigger occasion ahead if Melbourne can halt Canberra's roll this weekend.
"It will be a massive occasion and a proud moment for me on Saturday night,” Cronk said.
"I certainly don't want to disrespectful of 300 games because it's a great achievement.
"But there is something greater on offer for this football club and I am very happy to take a back seat to the preliminary final, which gives us an opportunity to do something special if we win.”