The pair’s closeness won’t affect their competitiveness. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
The pair’s closeness won’t affect their competitiveness. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Smith braces for ‘strange’ Cronk face-off

MELBOURNE Storm captain Cameron Smith has admitted the prospect of lining up against Sydney Roosters boom recruit Cooper Cronk will be "quite strange".

But Smith, 34, warned the long-time ally would not be afforded any special treatment when the two sides face-off next season.

"No doubt it will be quite strange, for sure, for sure, but if that was to happen ... then that 80 minutes will be business as usual," Smith told the Herald Sun.

"It's our job to go out and play professionally. I've got a lot of mates that I play against and the 80 minutes is about going out and doing the best for your team and then afterwards you're mates again."

Smith has played alongside the two-time Dally M medallist for club, state and country but never against the 323-game champion halfback.

The Roosters announced Cronk's signing on Monday, with the two-time premiership star set to join the Tricolours following his Rugby League World Cup commitments.

Cronk's decision to play on is a double blow for Storm, who have a standing agreement with the decorated halfback to return to the club as a part-time mentor at the end of his career.

Cronk revealed he considered playing on at Storm.

"I got the finals and I really had that drive and really enjoyed the excitement and the pressure of finals football and then I half considered playing on," Cronk said.

"The Roosters have been successful over a long period of time under Trent Robinson.

"I've admired them from afar and the few minimal conversations that we had it ticked a lot of the right boxes.

 

It will be an unusual sight for everyone in rugby league. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
It will be an unusual sight for everyone in rugby league. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

 

"It's one hell of a challenge that I'm super excited about and really looking forward to and seeing myself playing in a different jersey next year is going to be difficult but everyone can play football when things go their way. It's when adversity hits you you really find your true colours and I'm looking forward to that."

Cronk said he had discussions with other Sydney-based NRL clubs but the Roosters were the best option.

The champion playmaker reached out to Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce yesterday.

"I had a chat to Mitchell earlier today, I won't go into specifics, it wasn't me about convincing or preaching... Mitchell's been front and centre of the Roosters for a long period of time," Cronk told NRL 360.

"He's got an arsenal of weapons to play in the halves that I think he can dominate and there's a few things that I think I could help him with and there's a lot of things that he could help me with so it's going to be something that we're going to work together, that's my preferred option that everyone stays and buys into the Roosters culture which I'm going to have to dive straight into and understand."

The Roosters will host Storm at Adelaide Oval in Round 16 - five days after Origin II in Sydney.

In a statement released by the Roosters, Cronk said: "It marks the start of a new chapter for me both professionally and personally and I look forward to joining my new teammates and coaches, and immersing myself in the club's culture in lead-up to the 2018 season."

Despite himself not being able to consider suiting up for another NRL team, Smith said Cronk had the entire club's blessing to play on.

"That's just me, we've all got different ideas about all parts of our life and for me in Cooper's situation, where he's played over 300 matches for our club, multiple premierships now, if I was in those shoes ... that would've done me I reckon," Smith told the Herald Sun before Australia's World Cup opener against England.

"If you choose to play on it's the uncertainty of what will happen in those next two years.

"I'd like to just finish while I knew that I was still playing well, I was one of the best players in the game, not saying that he won't be, but you just finish on top and you can't get better than a premiership."

The Roosters remain outright ($5) favourites with TAB to win the 2018 NRL grand final - ahead of Storm ($6.5) and North Queensland ($7).



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