Cronk unfazed by contract talks
Cooper Cronk has once again addressed contract talks less then two weeks out from Round 1, stating that he is relaxed about the whole situation.
Cronk's contract runs out at the end of 2016, and while there is still plenty of speculation as to when he'll make a decision regarding his playing future, it isn't bothering the halfback.
"I'm not worried about it. I'll have a conversation with Melbourne, we'll take those in the early stages and they'll develop over time, and I'm sure in due course there'll be an announcement in terms of what I'm doing," Cronk said.
"But up until this point I'm pretty comfortable. I'm relaxed about it and not stressed about it, so it'll work the way it works."
Cronk on Tuesday tried to set the record straight surrounding some misconceptions that have been rumoured over the past couple of weeks.
"There have been a few misleading facts… One was [I'm contracted next season], I don’t have a contract with Melbourne next year, there's no option, I'm a free agent," Cronk added.
"Two was that I was negotiating with other clubs behind Melbourne. There's no doubt that I'm at a stage in my career where a contract is a pretty important thing. With due respect to the club and what I've been through and what we've been through, the club I've been in talks with has been Melbourne the whole time.
"I'll exhaust every avenue with the Storm and the CEO, and if things don't meet a point then there may be some negotiations [with other clubs] but that's no different to anyone else, and I've been absolutely up front with that."
The 32-year-old still hasn’t set a timeline on when he will in fact sit down and work through a new contract, and said that it's better for him if he doesn’t think about it too much right now.
"If I was worried and tense about it I probably would bring it forward, but I think I'm pretty relaxed about it. To be fair, my theory on it is that if you talk about it more it becomes a bigger noise in your head and at the moment it's not a big noise. It is what it is and it'll work out."
Cronk is instead focusing all of his energy on the Round 1 season-opener against the Dragons, and believes that it's been years since he's been in better physical condition heading into the NRL Telstra Premiership season, due to not having any representative football for Australia following the conclusion of the 2015 season.
"My body is in better condition this time then it was last year for Round 1, and the best since 2012," he said.
"You're never going to knock back the chance to represent Australia, it's absolutely the pinnacle of our game, but on the flipside of that, I've had eight weeks of preparation as opposed to four leading into a season, so you think about the extra kilometres, extra lifts and extra massages getting your body ready."
After the Storm's heartbreaking preliminary final loss to the eventual premiers North Queensland last year, Cronk stated that the mood after the game was one that he hadn’t felt in recent memory.
"I probably haven’t been hurt like that from a season for a number of years, but what happened last year can be used as inspiration and can drive certain people, but for me it's really irrelevant," Cronk said.
"It's a new year and we need to go and work our backsides off to hopefully be better than what we were because teams will improve, and if we don’t improve we won't go with the best teams."
With Billy Slater and Cameron Munster in doubt for the Round 1 clash on March 7, Cronk has confidence in the younger players to be able to come in and fill the void.
The halfback gave one youngster in particular huge praise for his play so far this pre-season, and believes that if Curtis Scott can make his debut against the Dragons, it will be the beginning of an exciting season for the 18-year-old.
"It's obviously great that the young guys are stepping up, and it puts a bit of heat on us as older players, but I definitely think that he (Scott) is a future player," said Cronk.
"He's raw and he's got this competitive streak that the best players have in terms of not wanting to be beaten in any contest, which is a great attribute to have."
"He needs to put on some size and his maturity will develop over the next three to four years, but he's in a position that there are some possibilities that he might get a chance, and credit to him, he's worked hard and he's in the frame," he said.