Hailed as Queensland’s saviour, Cooper Cronk has surprisingly claimed he knows how dumped Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans feels ahead of the State of Origin decider.
Queensland have welcomed Cronk back from a knee injury with open arms for July 8’s must-win game three in Brisbane.
But Cronk claims he can empathise with Cherry-Evans, saying he had faced similar hurdles since Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy’s “crazy” decision to anoint him as Storm No.7 in 2006.
Cherry-Evans was criticised for his failure to click with Thurston in Queensland’s 26-18 game-two loss.
But Cronk said the Manly playmaker should be cut some slack.
“To be fair, there were question marks about me a few years ago on whether I’d work well with JT,” 15-Origin veteran Cronk said.
“So in terms of Daly, he’ll be back next year.
“The kid will go back and play for Manly and … (he’ll) find a lot of desire.
“Being driven to play your best performance comes from a few knockbacks.”
Cronk might be seen as Queensland’s trump card after missing game two but he admitted halfback was once the last position on his mind.
Signed as a utility, Cronk did not know what to say when Bellamy shifted him in as Melbourne halfback in 2006.
“First thought was that he was crazy,” Cronk said.
“Let’s be honest – it was quite a courageous decision on Craig’s behalf.
“I’ve never really had this conversation with anyone or with Craig but I think he saw my work ethic opposed to natural flair or talent that told him I could play there.”
Cronk will never forget what Bellamy said next.
“He told me two things: ‘I’ll pick you every week if you defend well and if you kick well’,” he said.
“I’ve looked at areas each year of where I can get better and improve (but) it definitely started with kicking and tackling.”
Incredibly, Cronk was named Dally M halfback of the year in 2006.
All that kicking practice looks like coming in handy again in Origin III.
Cronk famously sealed the 2012 Origin series with a match-winning game-three field goal.
He was at it again in Queensland’s 11-10 Origin I win this year.
There were no prizes for guessing what Cronk was doing at Queensland’s Gold Coast camp.
“I’m not Nostradamus but I dare say it will be a close game, so it would be silly of me not to practise,” he laughed.
Cronk has shown miraculous powers of recovery since being ruled out of game two with a serious knee injury.
But don’t call Cronk Queensland’s Origin III “saviour”.
“I doubt that’s true …(but) I’d like to think the way I play the game helps others in the team play their best football,” he said.