Please. Read until the end before you judge me.
Two Sundays ago, Cooper Cronk won back-to-back grand finals with two different clubs! If that’s not crazy enough, he did it with a broken scapula.
It’s absolutely mind-boggling when put into context. Some players dream of winning one premiership ring (cue the Nathan Hindmarsh ring-less jokes). To do it back-to-back with different teams is incredible. The feat will most likely never be matched again and Cooper is rightly getting his due credit.
When broken down thoroughly, however, the feat may not be what it seems.
Cooper Cronk came from the Melbourne Storm. He was one-third of the Storm’s big three (Cam Smith, Billy Slater and himself). He has done it all; multiple Dally M winner, Golden Boot winner, multiple premierships, World Cups and multiple Clive Churchill medals – he actually has accomplished all there is to accomplish.
Last season, he decided to move to Sydney. Everyone, including his old club, assumed he would retire. Instead, to the surprise of many, he chose to sign on with one of the biggest sides in the NRL, the Sydney Roosters.
Cronk moved and began getting to work straight away, eventually leading them to a premiership against his old team.
If we break it down, what did Cooper exactly do?
He left the reigning premiers from 2017 to move to the Bondi club for 2018 and 2019.
But it’s not as if he joined a struggling side – far from it.
Since coach Trent Robinson took over in 2013, the Roosters have won two premierships and four minor premierships. They won it all in Robinson’s maiden year and were a constant presence in the finals after that.
It was only in 2016, when they were plagued by injuries, that they had one of the weirdest seasons in club history, missing the finals and needing a quick re-build to regain their once-dominant defence.
In 2017, they pushed for another grand final qualifier birth, only to go down to a red-hot Cowboys side.
With all that said, the Roosters have been the most successful side since 2013, followed closely by Cronk’s former team, the Storm.
Let’s move on to the off-season in 2017, where Cooper announces his signing with the Roosters. Not only does he sign, but the Chooks also grab James Tedesco. In the wake of this signing, Tedesco is a clear-cut choice for second-best fullback in the competition, behind Cronk’s ex-teammate, Billy Slater.
So, Cronk moves with the second-best fullback in the competition to arguably the most successful team in the past five years.
In addition to all that, the Roosters boast one of the best coaches in the game with Robinson, the NSW Origin captain in Boyd Cordner, and pure potential stars in Latrell Mitchell, Joseph Manu and boom rookie Victor Radley.
Pairing up with the talents of Cronk and Tedesco are two premiership-winning players in captain Jake Friend and five-eighth Luke Keary.
Catching my drift?
Cronk walked into the most successful club in the past six years with a premiership-winning coach, a new recruit who, at the time, was the best up-and-coming fullback in the competition.
Throw into that mix Cordner, Mitchell and a premiership-winning spine – doesn’t sound like it would be all that hard to win, does it?
Yes, Cooper won back-to-back titles with different teams.
Yes, he beat his old team to do so.
Yes, he has one more ring than the former members of the big three.
But remember, he beat the team he himself left in a bit of a hole. Look at the dominant Storm teams, take away one key player, add him onto arguably the second-best team, add him in with the second best fullback to replace his combination with his old fullback (who was the best) and what do you have?
Sounds so simple. The feat sounds so incredible, but I just don’t think it should warrant the praise it has received. The fact he did it with a broken scapula speaks louder volumes to me than the actual back-to-back feat itself.
Walking into Sydney pretty much presented the Roosters with a premiership. Walking into the Knights? Then we may have a headline for our old friend Cooper, but, much as I hate to say it, I just don’t think his feat with the Chooks was that incredible.
And before you go on and say I’m a ‘hater’, if you asked me to name my top three halves of all time, in no particular order I would say Andrew Johns, Wally Lewis and Cooper Cronk.
Yes, I’d have him over, Johanthan Thurston. But that’s an issue for another article.
I marvel in your work Cooper, you’ve been a great player and a top-three half for mine. I just can’t think too much of this feat. Not now. Not ever.