He’d missed several seasons due to injury and suspension
Cooper Cronk is turning into one of the quiet achievers of the competition who will only really be appreciated when he retires.
His achievements in the NRL alone are enough to leave fellow champions staring from afar, and we haven’t even mentioned his representative feats.
In 2007, 2009, and 2012, Cooper Cronk led his side to premiership glory. Only one officially, but even then, it’s one thing to have a side worth that amount, but another to lead it to glory.
There are many halfbacks that wouldn’t have been able to win even with those sides, therefore even though not officially counting for the Melbourne Storm, those premierships still belong with Cooper.
The fact that Cooper is the premier half in the game is a testament to his work ethic. Jonathon Thurston said in State of Origin camp recently that he has never seen somebody train harder than Cooper.
However, Thurston was simply pointing out the obvious. You can see that whenever Cooper plays the game, he is the ‘man’, the one that controls the tempo, no matter what the level or score.
This defies belief in some ways. Not that he is the hardest trainer in the game, more the fact that he is now the premier half in the game. If ever anybody needed inspiration that they could make it on sheer hard work, he’s your exemplar.
He doesn’t have the flash of Benji Marshall or the natural ability of Thurston, but is able to compensate through perfection.
Perfection that didn’t come naturally, perfection he had to work at over and over again and perfection that now makes him the great player he is today. They say he spent years perfecting his kicking style of bombs, working tirelessly on his technique before and after training.
You can see it in his execution of them; now not only having the traditional one, but also the ones he virtually invented that are now becoming nightmares for fullbacks.
If you want to look at how well he has perfected his game, look no further than his success at all levels. It is often argued that he is surrounded by superstars, but really if you take away Billy Slater and Cameron Smith you will see he isn’t.
Even Slater and Smith themselves are reliant on him to an extent, making Melbourne’s continued success a testimony to not only the perfection of Cooper’s individual game, but also his ability to repeat this every game, no matter if it’s against Parramatta or NSW.
Another trait that sets Cooper apart is his obvious knowledge of not only his game, but life as well. His maturity shines through whenever he speaks. A recent quote, “every sinew in my body came together in one perfect whole” shows his intellect.
His intense, but realistic approach to rugby makes him one of the most respected and admired players within the competition, especially within his team.
It is for that reason that when Smith was asked by Phil Gould, “who controls the side during your games”, a logical question considering the star-status of both Slater and Smith himself, he immediately replied “what Cooper wants, Cooper gets”.
That answer is proof of Cooper’s ability to extract every ounce of potential out of himself with the whole side trusting him with their season because they believe there is no one in the competition better.
This privilege, but also responsibility, has led to him standing up when it matters most in every arena of the game. His ability to make match-winning plays in big games is again testament to his level of perfection.
It is no coincidence that Cooper was the orchestrator of continuing Queensland’s run in Origin over the past two years, kicking the series-winning field goal in the 2012 decider, and giving the final pass for Justin Hodge’s series-winning try this year.
Cooper is the ultimate player in today’s game. The problem for the opposition is, with his work ethic, he’s only going to get better.