Cronk’s shock text to Roosters teammate
Luke Keary was expecting Cooper Cronk to be busy plotting Melbourne's demise again when he texted his veteran halves partner last Saturday night.
The Storm were ruthlessly beating down on Parramatta in their NRL semi-final, setting the stage for another grudge match with Hollywood-style plot lines.
Like retirement-bound Cronk attempting to knock out his former club and enable the Sydney Roosters to be the first club to claim back-to-back titles in over 20 years.
So Cronk's reply to Keary?
"I'm watching the rugby (World Cup)."
Maybe it was Cronk's subtle way of allowing Keary to hatch his own take-down of the Storm, as he did when forced to be the Roosters sole playmaker in last year's grand final.
That night Cronk famously took the field with a fractured scapula before celebrating a dramatic triumph over his former teammates.
Keary did so well he was named the Clive Churchill Medallist.
Almost 12 months on and there are no doubts over Cronk handing Keary the crown as the club's chief playmaker when he winds up his 16-year career.
It's been a plan Cronk has been perfecting since arriving in Bondi.
"I feel like (Cronk) has had to change his style more than we've had to change our style for him," said Keary, ahead of Saturday's SCG showdown with the Storm.
"I'm not sure what he was like in Melbourne, but he's one of the most selfless people I've played with.
"There's no ego in it. He doesn't care if he's in the spotlight or the bloke who takes a backward step."
The stats tell the story.
In his second season at the club, Cronk is averaging less try assists, line-break assists, tackle breaks and offloads compared to his first year.
In contrast, Keary is up on most of the four categories, and ranked second in the league on try and line-break assists.
Keary, 27, reckons there's a simple reason why.
"He's let me progress," he says of his 35-year-old mentor.
"Even the last tackle stuff, something simple like that. He's let me kind of take over, especially this year just to progress my game.
"There's a lot to him. He's obviously very smart, he knows how to deal with people really well. But he's selfless and puts everyone else before him."
While Keary is the main beneficiary of Cronk's experience, the former Kangaroos and Queensland representative has impacted on the entire squad.
"There is a bit I know now about how to take teams apart," admitted forward Isaac Liu said.
"Even though he's not a centre, he's taught me so much. He's just down to earth, which is the best thing about him," added centre Joseph Manu.
Perhaps it's why Roosters officials are confident Cronk's football IQ won't be lost to the club.
Cronk is widely tipped to increase his role as on-screen analyst with Fox Sports next year, but is also likely to be called upon as playmaking coach.
That would certainly be a big help for his likely replacement Kyle Flanagan, who opted to depart Cronulla to become a first-choice halfback.
"To have someone with that knowledge and the type of person he is would be invaluable," Keary said.
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