Smith: Origin series to be Cronk’s last

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    The jury may be out on Cooper Cronk’s future but Queensland skipper Cameron Smith has a feeling it will be the Maroons halfback’s final State of Origin series.

    Queensland pivot Johnathan Thurston will begin his Origin swansong in Wednesday night’s game two in Sydney, after missing the Maroons’ record 28-4 opening loss with a shoulder injury.

    And Smith believes Thurston’s 33-year-old halves partner Cronk will join him in representative retirement after the year end 2017 World Cup.

    Cronk is yet to officially decide his playing future after announcing in April he will leave NRL club Melbourne Storm at the end of the year to live in Sydney with his fiancee.

    Reports ahead of Origin II claimed Cronk was lined up to be Melbourne’s specialist halves coach next season.

    Smith said Storm teammate Cronk had given no indication during Queensland camp that this Origin series would be his last but felt the veteran halfback’s Maroons days were numbered.

    “It could be (his last Origin series),” Smith said of 20-Origin veteran Cronk.

    “What he decides to do is entirely up to him but at this stage I reckon he may finish up.

    “I just get that feeling… but I wouldn’t be surprised if he played on, put it that way.”

    Storm coach Craig Bellamy confirmed Cronk would be offered a halves coaching position next year if he retired, helping groom the likes of 19-year-old Brodie Croft and impressive 25-year-old Ryley Jacks.

    “If he (retires) he will do one or two days with us and that will be with our young halfbacks,” Bellamy told Triple M radio.

    Croft has already started to blossom at Melbourne, kicking the match-winning field goal in a last round golden-point win over North Queensland – just his second NRL match.

    Jacks has also impressed in his 10 matches, starting nine times as both Billy Slater and Cameron Munster spent time on the sidelines early in the year.

    Cronk has been linked to a number of Sydney clubs for 2018, most notably both Cronulla and South Sydney, but said back in April he would decide his future after the Origin series.

    Smith said Thurston’s farewell and a possible send-off for Cronk would not provide extra motivation for Queensland as they look to keep the series alive.

    They aim to become the first Queensland team since 1987 to win games in Sydney and Brisbane to claim a series after losing a home opener.

    “We are all aware of the situation. It may be his last series and if it is we will want to go out there and play well,” Smith said of Cronk.

    “I don’t think there is extra motivation to do that. Every game we want to play well and win.”

    © AAP 2017