When Cooper Cronk first confirmed he would be leaving the Melbourne Storm at the end of the 2017 season to be in Sydney with his fiancee, Fox Sports’ glamour Tara Rushton, many assumed that would bring down the curtain on a career spent at the very top of the game.
There was some suggestion that Cronk could lob up at one of Sydney’s nine NRL clubs, rumours that weren’t quelled by the man himself at any stage. On the back of that, with the 2017 season in the rearview mirror, the most persistent talk of all is that Nick Politis, affectionately or sometimes infamously known as ‘Uncle Nick’ around Bondi Junction, could lure the star half-back to finish his career with the Sydney Roosters.
From fitting finale to stunning return?
As the Provan-Summons trophy was lifted at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Cronk could not have asked for a more fitting end to his time with the Storm. Most felt that would also represent the perfect way to have ended a career but the Roosters, led by Politis and head coach Trent Robinson, privately believe they can still lure him to the club on a one or two-year deal.
The Roosters finished the regular NRL season in second place on the ladder, six points behind the all-conquering Storm before being bundled out of the finals series in a shock 29-16 loss to the North Queensland Cowboys.
Behind closed doors, Politis and the hierarchy at the club view not making the Grand Final as a failure on the club’s part.
Coach Robinson is safe in his role at the club. He is well liked by the players and respected by the management team, so an overhaul of the playing squad was expected. James Tedesco was lured away from the Wests Tigers on big dollars, while Shaun Kenny-Dowall was cut loose mid-season and Kane Evans, Paul Carter, Connor Watson and Aidan Guerra were all deemed surplus to requirements.
Tedesco represents a tremendous player and an improvement for the club, who will likely use him in the fullback role in place of Michael Gordon, who could shift out onto the wing.
A good year for the existing halves
In the halves, Luke Keary managed to put together his best season in first grade, managing eight tries from 26 games, the most he’d ever scored in a single season. He looked to be a more composed foil for the more erratic Mitchell Pearce in the halves.
Together, Pearce and Keary provided a solid kicking game and did enough with the ball in hand to create opportunities across the fringes and bring into focus the aerial ability of the Rooster’s wingers. Pearce played well enough through the start of the season that he was handed a recall to the State of Origin arena by the New South Wales Blues.
In that environment, it’s hard to imagine that a half-back or five-eighth is the final piece to the Rooster’s puzzle. But with reports that the club are interested, and have been in touch with the NRL about the viability of fitting the champion Queensland star under the salary cap, it appears the Roosters are indeed chasing Cronk.
If they were to make a move, one or two players may be forced out the door but it appears Politis and the club are happy to do whatever is necessary to bring Cronk to Bondi Junction.
Big dollar property investment done and dusted
Earlier this week, it was revealed Cronk had snapped up a $3.5m mansion in the upper-class Sydney suburb of Mosman. He had already declared his decision to move to Sydney but the proximity to Roosters’ heartland and the reported push from the Roosters are starting to look like a move could be, at the very least, still up on a whiteboard deep within the bowels of Roosters HQ.
Cronk had been widely tipped to join Rushton at Fox Sports, where he has done some work through the year. It is believed an agreement has been reached for him to become a more frequent on-air talent for the broadcaster but for the right price, he could easily be tempted back for a another year, or two, of playing.
That would not be unprecedented and would actually draw parallels with the recent switch by NFL star Jay Cutler. Cutler ditched his retirement plans to work in game-day broadcasting to take up the vacant starting quarterback role at the Miami Dolphins in the wake of a serious injury to their star Ryan Tannehill.
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