Exclusive: Cooper Cronk and Tara Rushton’s baby news
It's still three years away, but Tara Rushton has begun counting down to the 2023 Women's Soccer World Cup.
While the Fox Sports Football presenter is looking forward to covering the tournament, what makes it even more special is the fact it will be on home soil, and her children will be able to attend the games.
"Their first major international sporting event will be watching these strong female role models - the best in the world - playing football here at home. What an example to set for the next generation. For me that's pretty unbelievable," Rushton tells Stellar.
"Honestly, being part of Australia and New Zealand's Women's Soccer World Cup bid and knowing this country is going to be hosting the biggest event in the history of women's sport is so exciting."
And it won't just be son Lennox, 2, and her husband, former NRL superstar Cooper Cronk, sitting in the stands. There will be another addition as Rushton is five months' pregnant with her second child, a boy, due at the end of January.
"Somehow we've been able to conceal [the pregnancy] this time around. I think it's because nobody asked!" Rushton says with a laugh as the couple share the news publicly for the first time with Stellar.
Cronk adds, "We always spoke about wanting two kids. We never really planned it in terms of timing, but we're really happy."
Happy and nauseous. Like with her first pregnancy, Rushton, 36, has been unwell throughout, only this time she also has an energetic toddler - who doesn't know the meaning of the word "walk" - to look after.
"It definitely adds a different level of intensity when you're chasing a fast-footed two-year-old around while pregnant," she says. "I thought I was fatigued during my first pregnancy, but that has been under the microscope the second time - it's definitely been more intense."
This photo shoot and conversation with Stellar is a rarity for the notoriously private duo, who became front-page news in 2017 when Cronk, now 36, announced, "There's a few things in life that are more important than football" and quit his league club Melbourne Storm to move to Sydney to be with Rushton. The pair wed in a low-key ceremony later that year.
However, the power couple chose to join forces now to shine a spotlight on charity organisation Gidget Foundation Australia, which supports the mental wellbeing of new and expecting parents.
"We were introduced to the foundation when Lenny was born and it really opened us both up to the important work it does," Rushton says.
"There's such a level of uncertainty with COVID, and those levels of anxiety just increase when you're bringing a bub into the world - it's more complicated than ever. So many people suffer in silence, but you don't have to.
"We've been championing the foundation's cause for a couple of years now because the work it does really resonated with us."
Like all families, parenthood has been a roller-coaster of emotions for the pair. Being on television doesn't make a newborn sleep through the night. And winning four NRL premierships doesn't help you hide vegies in meals at dinnertime.
"Everyone faces challenges but it's amazing how much a cuddle or a smile can erase the memory of a bad night before," Cronk says. "When you have the amazing ability to have a family, and find that love and affection and care for someone, you do whatever it takes."
Rushton agrees: "There's a big perspective shift when you have a child. It's no longer about me - it's about Lenny, about making sure he's protected, fed, cared for and safe. We're both working parents, but it doesn't matter how busy or stretched you are, or how full the plate is, you somehow find that energy to read that 17th book or stay in the bath five minutes longer."
After winning back-to-back premierships with the Sydney Roosters, Cronk retired from the game at the end of last year and now works at the same place as his wife.
"People laugh because when we see each other at work we have conversations about Lenny," says Rushton, adding that they've learnt to keep a mean fridge calendar.
Rushton has been with Fox Sports for more than eight years and in that time has become one of the network's most well-respected and hardworking journalists.
While she predominantly covers the round ball game, over the past few years she's added several other sports, such as MotoGP, to her growing résumé. She's also set to cover the upcoming summer of cricket.
The presenter is described as "a class act" by Fox Sports executive director Steve Crawley. "When we asked Tara to work on MotoGP because our regular host couldn't get out of Melbourne due to COVID, she knew little about the sport on the Monday, but by the Friday she knew more than 99 per cent of the fans," he says.
Rushton's passion for her work was evident when she returned from maternity leave three months after having Lenny. "Having watched both my parents, and my grandparents, be full-time working parents, I knew it was something I could do," she says.
"I love my job and I actually think it makes me a better mum. But I must admit that during those early days of going into the office, there was a real pull because I was thinking about my little man at home."
So when Rushton isn't working, that's exactly where she is. "As a couple, we're happiest when we're with Lenny, mucking around. Family for us is number one." And despite the pair's sporting pedigree, they're ignoring any external expectations that their sons will follow in their footsteps.
"The boys can do whatever they want when they grow up," Cronk says. "I dare say we'll be driving to every sporting ground in NSW on the weekends for the next 20 years, but that's OK. My parents did that for me when I was young."
And as it is for any other young family, it will likely be a busy, messy, fun adventure. "We're a normal little family unit, we absolutely get on with it," Rushton says.
"Like anyone else, we have super-tough days, but we make sure we're working to the best of our abilities. When we're together, we make sure we're enjoying that quality time and try to have as many adventures as possible with Lenny. That's what we love to do: be together and hang out as a family."
Originally published as Exclusive: Cooper Cronk and Tara Rushton's baby news