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IN today’s unstable economic times, Ben Cronin is likely to have his fair share of team-mates wandering up to him after training to find out what is going on in the world.

You see, the Cowboys five-eighth is into his second year of a teaching degree majoring in economics – and while the likeable Queenslander doesn’t claim to have all the answers to global financial disaster, he does know exactly what he wants from 2009.

“I’d be happy with three (first grade games)… of course I’d want more… 26 would be nice! But I’ll take three for the moment,” Cronin enthuses.

“I think I would be ready because I feel like I’m improving just being around the top squad.

“It’s handy being able to sit back and watch guys like [Johnathan] Thurston train, and just pick up little things that coaches can’t even teach you. If I can sit back and see how JT does something a few times, then I can take that back to my game and hopefully improve the way I play.

“So if I can just wait on a couple of injuries, or around Origin time, hopefully I can get a few games.”

It’s a bold prediction which highlights the ambition of the Cowboys’ young gun who spent last season languishing in a Roosters team that struggled to find its rhythm all year.

Despite the Roosters finishing second last in the augural Toyota Cup competition, the Wynumm-Manly junior was a shining light – leading the team with 19 try assists for the year.

But now he’s back in his home state and ready to rock some boats to get his career back on track – and he couldn’t be happier with the move.

“I’m feeling excellent, it’s a lot better,” the versatile 19-year-old, who has trained at five-eighth and at hooker in the off-season, gushes.

“I like it a lot more up here than Sydney. The weather… the people… everything’s different up here, even though I was only in Sydney for the one year.

“I guess it was tough being away from my family, yeah, but more than that I just didn’t suit the Sydney lifestyle – I’m a pretty laid-back country kid. I love Queensland and Sydney was too fast for me.”

What is it like being in a one-team town?

It gets pretty full-on! Everyone wants to stop you for a chat and ask about the older guys that are training and that sort of thing, whereas in Sydney I went unnoticed the whole time I was there. Once you’re up here at the club and everyone starts hearing your name then everyone recognises each other, and goes out together for dinner and stuff. So you get seen that way. And soon enough everyone in the town gets to know you.

What are your goals for this year?

I want to get the NYC team into the top eight if we can; we’ve had a good off-season so I think if we weren’t aiming for the top eight then all our work would be pointless. I think we can most definitely get into the top eight. If I can play a few NRL games that would be perfect and because I’m only on a 12-month contract I’d obviously like to get a new contract by the end of the year.

Who were your heroes growing up?

Darren Lockyer – I watched him a fair bit. I liked Benny Ikin a fair bit as well… all the Queensland five-eighths, really.

I’m a five-eighth; I never really liked halfback. There’s probably not a lot of difference, they aren’t too different these days, because they usually stick to left and right. So most of the time it’s just a number – but if I could choose I would prefer no.6.

What hobbies do you have away from footy?

Well… surfing! But I don’t get to do much of that up here, because there are no [surf] beaches here. I haven’t been to a proper beach since I last went back home. I’ve got an uncle that lives up here and I play a bit of golf or go fishing with him. I live with Mitchell Achurch, who came up from the Tigers, and James Tamou from the Roosters; if anyone’s got an idea they’ll call a few boys and we’ll end up doing something.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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