Melbourne’s rookie fullback Cameron Munster has started playing his best football since he stopped trying to be the next Billy Slater, says Cooper Cronk.
Munster took over the Storm’s No.1 jersey mid-season when Slater had shoulder surgery and the 21-year-old has made the role his own.
Far from a stopgap, Munster has emerged as a genuine star in the making and has been crucial to the Storm’s late season NRL title surge.
He has averaged 179 metres during the season – ranking him fourth in the NRL.
Ahead of their preliminary final against North Queensland on Saturday night at AAMI Park, Queensland and Australia halfback Cronk predicted Munster would handle the occasion with aplomb.
“He’s a good kid and he’s confident, which helps,” Cronk said.
“He will get the job done because he cares about this football team and he cares about his own performance.”
Cronk said he thought Munster had tried too hard when he came into the side to play like superstar Slater.
However in recent games he had played a more natural game that saw him in the thick of action, while Slater looked to run more angles through holes in the defence.
“In his first few games he probably tried to emulate Billy too much and now he’s found his niche in terms of the way he likes to play,” Cronk said.
“He’s got a lot of touches in his game and he plays tougher through the middle-third while Bill’s acceleration and ability to play at the back of blocks is second-to-none.
“Early on he struggled to find the difference between his own performance and Billy but he’s been super consistent and played really well for us.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy is another who had confidence Munster would shine under the pressure of a grand final qualifier.
“Nothing seems to concern Munster too much,” Bellamy said.
“He’s a tough kid and that’s his greatest attribute this year.
“He’s confident in what he can do and getting out there and doing the job.”