'Crazy' decision to build an Origin champion
He has been hailed as the man to ensure Queensland doesn't lose a second consecutive Origin series but Cooper Cronk has described Craig Bellamy's decision to turn him into a No.7 as "crazy" and "courageous".
Including Game One last year where he left the field inside the first 10 minutes with a broken arm, Queensland have lost all three Origin matches in which Cronk has not played since making his debut in Game One, 2010.
His return from a knee injury for Game Three has brought with it a sense of comfort that the man who has kicked match-winning field goals twice in Origin before is back at the helm, a far cry from the young man entrusted with the halfback duties at the Storm prior to the 2006 season.
Although he had played 33 NRL matches in the two years prior only one had been as Melbourne's starting halfback, Bellamy issuing the schoolboy rugby star with a simple ultimatum.
"He told me two things: I'll pick you every week if you defend well and if you kick well. So I had to learn how to tackle and how to kick," Cronk recalled.
"It was quite a courageous decision on Craig's behalf. Looking back – and 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.
"The whole pre-season of 2006 I worked on the craft of having to kick and having to defend.
"I had a solid start to my halfback career but it's evolved. I've looked at areas each year of where I can get better and improve. It definitely started with kicking and tackling."
By the end of 2006 Cronk had been named the 2006 Dally M Halfback of the Year in company that included the man he had replaced at Melbourne, Matt Orford, as well as Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston.
As the AFL culture that envelopes Melbourne provided him with access to kicking coaches not available at most NRL clubs, Cronk tapped into the playmaking nous of Matthew Johns to learn other aspects of the game that can't be gleaned from coaching manuals.
"We had a good relationship there for a few years. He taught me the science of halfback play – intrinsic parts of body position, footwork, tempo and things like that," said Cronk, who will play his 16th match for Queensland on Wednesday night.
"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… being around someone like that gave me a bit of confidence.
"That's the best thing about Melbourne Storm. They give you the ability and environment to develop your skills. It's up to you how far you want to take that.
"Technically I threw my old kicking style out the window and went to the traditional AFL way of kicking and just worked and worked.
"The art of kicking and passing was just starting to become an important factor. We were doing kicking and catching two hours a week during pre-season, which was probably new back in 2006. Now every team is doing it."
There will be some extra field goal practice in the lead-up to Wednesday night – "I'm not Nostradamus but I dare say it will be a close game" – but mention that he is viewed as the Maroons' saviour and Cronk's bashful response is that he is simply playing his role in the team.
"I'd like to think the way I play the game helps others play their best football," said the 31-year-old.
"A little bit of communication helps out players but whether that's true (being Queensland's saviour) or not I don't' really buy into that at all.
"The fact is you play your role within the team and you doing that helps someone else do their job.
"I do that every day of the week whether it's here, for Australia or for Melbourne Storm."