The final word on Cooper Cronk’s fitness may come from the man himself, Queensland captain Cameron Smith says.
The Maroons skipper expects Cronk to be considered for Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener in Sydney even if the injured halfback misses the captain’s run on match eve.
Medical staff will run the rule over Cronk who has hardly been sighted at the Maroons’ Gold Coast camp due to round-the-clock icing of his ankle since rolling it at training on Friday.
But Smith believes 16-game Origin veteran Cronk will be the best gauge on whether the halfback should play or not.
“The bloke is 32, he knows his own body,” Smith said.
“When you are dealing with a rookie that is when the medical staff make a decision.
“But Cooper will have a fair say into whether he is ready to go or not.”
NSW have claimed Queensland are playing mind games by saying Cronk was injured.
But Smith said Cronk was facing a real fitness battle.
In an encouraging sign Cronk was sighted for the first time in days when he walked unassisted to Monday’s team meeting without crutches or a moon boot.
“I haven’t seen him for three days, that shows how particular he has been with his rehab,” Smith said.
“(But) I reckon he is a chance of playing, although there is no guarantee at the moment.
“He still has a fair amount of swelling but the medical staff feel he is a pretty good chance of playing.”
Smith said Cronk should still be considered even if he missed the captain’s run.
“Given his experience at this level and his understanding of our gameplan, if he’s not quite right for that (captain’s run) we won’t risk him and he will get up for Wednesday,” he said.
Smith said Michael Morgan had impressed at training in Cronk’s absence.
Morgan has slotted into five-eighth with his North Queensland halves partner Johnathan Thurston wearing the No.7 jersey.
“Our preparation has been spot on (without Cronk) – our staff have not been worried too much,” Smith said.
“Michael has been training there and he’s been going very well.
“The partnership he shares with Thurston could be vital to our performance but it’s out of our hands at the moment – we are just hopeful Cooper gets up.”
Queensland left the Gold Coast and flew to Sydney on Monday afternoon.