If Cooper Cronk again inspires a State of Origin series win for Queensland, NSW will have one of their own to blame.
Cronk has saluted the influence of ex-NSW half Matthew Johns at the Melbourne Storm ahead of a long awaited return from a knee injury in Wednesday’s Origin decider in Brisbane.
Queensland No.7 Cronk has been hailed as the Maroons’ saviour after fill-in halfback Daly Cherry-Evans struggled in their 26-18 game two loss in Melbourne.
Cronk sealed game one’s 11-10 victory with a field goal and is expected to produce similar heroics in the must-win Origin III.
And it seems former Blues playmaker Johns is the man to thank.
Cronk said lessons learned under ex-Storm assistant Johns gave him the confidence to thrive at halfback.
“We had a good relationship there for a few years,” he said.
“He taught me the science of halfback play intrinsic parts of body position, footwork, tempo and things like that.
“The fact that back then he was basically the face of rugby league, the face of the Channel Nine Footy Show, and his resume as a player (was impressive) … so being around someone like that gave me a bit of confidence.”
Cronk has also hailed his Queensland and Melbourne captain Cameron Smith ahead of game three.
Cronk will chime into a Queensland backline reshuffled for Origin III after fullback Billy Slater’s season-ending shoulder surgery.
Cronk looked forward to formulating a halves gameplan with Johnathan Thurston that would allow new No.1 Greg Inglis to “roam” in game three.
But Maroons No.7 Cronk said it was his understanding with Queensland rake Smith that may prove the difference on July 8.
“It definitely helps in the moments, particularly in the big games when you don’t really have to communicate,” Cronk said of Smith.
“It’s just a reaction, the body language, that I’m going to do this or that.
“I think that’s what Origin is about. It comes down to moments.
“(And) the fact is when those moments come I can see Cameron’s body language.”
Cronk looked forward to ex-centre Inglis “asserting himself” in just his second game at fullback in Origin III in Slater’s absence.
“Greg’s greatest strength is his physical presence, so let’s get the ball in his hands – let’s get him asserting himself in the game, through the middle of the field, pushing up and off-loads,” Cronk said.
“He’s (Inglis) done it before so Johnathan and I will take a bit more of a creative aspect with our structures in attack, hopefully pass the ball to one another a bit more and let GI (Inglis) just roam.”