Kangaroo Cronk eases grand final heartache
The jibes from renowned Cronulla antagonist James Maloney haven't yet started but Storm halfback Cooper Cronk insists that being back in camp with the Kangaroos is helping to ease his grand final heartache.
Less than a week after Maloney was instrumental in engineering the Sharks' 14-12 win over Melbourne to claim the club's first Telstra Premiership, he and club-mate Valentine Holmes have joined Cronk and Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith in the Australian squad ahead of Saturday's Test against New Zealand in Perth.
Cronk and Smith had barely any time to reflect on their heart-stopping defeat at the hands of the Sharks before heading into yet another Kangaroos camp but for Cronk moving on as quickly as possible is the best way to deal with the pain.
"It's still a bitter pill to swallow and tough to get your head around but when you're the winning team you want grand final week to go as long as possible so you can enjoy it," Cronk said as the Kangaroos settled into Perth on Monday.
"When you're the losing team, we couldn't wait to get back into camp to forget about it.
"Physically it's all right. We're living the dream by playing rugby league so you could play a couple of days after if you had to but emotionally it's pretty tough but you do move on.
"It's good to come in and see some familiar faces, shake the hands of the Cronulla boys and congratulate them and hopefully jump under the Australian banner and sing the national anthem together and play really well on Saturday."
It's been nine years since Cronk made his Kangaroos debut at halfback in a 58-0 hiding of the Kiwis in Wellington and on Saturday he will make his 29th Test appearance for his country.
Cronk will turn 33 two weeks after the Four Nations final on November 20 but – like halves partner Johnathan Thurston – insists he has no intention of making himself unavailable for representative selection.
"I've never really contemplated when the end date is," said Cronk.
"As long as I'm playing rugby league and have the passion and desire the national team is something that I want to aspire to be a part of every opportunity.
"For me, the most emotional times of my football career have been in an Australian jersey and running out and singing the national anthem.
"Come Saturday night I'm pretty sure there'll be some water in the eyes and standing in front of the haka I'll be quite emotional as well.
"As long as you've got that, you'd have to rip the jersey off my back."