Durkin: The NRL needs more from Cooper Cronk
RUGBY LEAGUE: To most who heard the comment, it was more than likely construed as just another throwaway line from a press conference. But in reality, Cooper Cronk was firing a warning shot to every player and coach in the NRL.
In announcing earlier this week his imminent retirement, the Roosters halfback declared "if anyone thought I had worked hard for the past 15 years, come and watch me train for the next 20 weeks". In other words, I want another premiership.
For the other 15 NRL clubs, that is a very scary thought. Ask those who have had any involvement with Cronk since his debut for the Melbourne Storm way back in 2004 and they will confirm no one has been more meticulous, and few have been more competitive.
Despite being beaten by the Broncos last week and the Rabbitohs in round one, the third-placed Roosters remain red-hot NRL premiership favourites.
And if they do win, they will be the first NRL club since 1993to win back-to-back premierships.
So, after the courage the 89kg halfback displayed when playing in last year's decider with a broken shoulder, every player in every other team has good reason to feel uneasy. Even scared.
Interestingly, while many good judges heaped praise on Cronk these past few days, none rated him the greatest of all time. And he isn't - far from it in fact.
Some this week tagged him a future Immortal but - on a fair dinkum basis - he has a long line in front of him waiting for that honour to be bestowed.
From his time in the game alone there is Fittler, Lockyer, Thurston, Smith, Webcke and Slater, joining names such as Sterling, Kenny, Cronin, Clyde, Daley and Stuart from an earlier era.
But if Immortal status in the game of rugby league was based on discipline, leadership, ethics, behaviour, humility and off-field conduct - as well as playing ability - Cronk would already have been inducted. No one in his era comes close to his impeccable record in those areas.
So, what of his future, post- playing? He is adamant he won't coach, not full-time anyway. But he would be open to mentoring individuals. He has also mentioned TV commentary, and he would more than likely have an opening at Fox, where his wife, Tara Rushton, is employed.
But if those who run the game are on the ball, Cronk should have already been invited into NRL HQ to discuss his future. And if not the NRL, at least the Rugby League Players Association.
Cronk is one of a kind. He is a living, breathing example to every kid aspiring to a career in our game that with hard work and complete dedication the pinnacle is within reach.
I'm not saying his talent would be wasted as a TV commentator/analyst, but his interpersonal skills, his intelligence and his genuine love of the game could be better utilised in administration.
Cooper Cronk, NRL chief executive, has a certain ring to it. Not just now, but certainly down the track.