Tate: The legacy Cronk leaves behind
There will be nothing like the fanfare that surrounded Cameron Smith's record breaking 356th game a fortnight ago but former Maroons teammate Brent Tate believes Cooper Cronk will leave Melbourne as a beacon to young players coming into the game.
Cronk will play his last game in Melbourne as a member of the Storm in Friday night's preliminary final against the Broncos but as debate has raged all season over what his future could entail in 2018 he will again deflect any sentimentality until the Storm's season comes to an end.
The 33-year-old will be playing his 322nd game in a Storm jersey determined to ensure he gets to leave with 323 and a premiership ring but according to Tate the great example Cronk has set is a work ethic that has allowed him to scale all of the game's heights.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Tate recalls Cronk's entry into the NRL and Origin arena and how sheer hard work elevated his game to an elite level.
"'Coops' has always been a good player, but he was never an outstanding junior," Tate says in Big League.
"He had to work hard to get to where he is and nothing was ever just handed to him. He's done some amazing stuff because of the hard work and discipline he has shown.
"He spent quite some time on the bench waiting for his chance to play State Origin, but not once did he complain or blow up about it.
"He just played his best and when he finally got his opportunity, he took it with both hands and we've seen what he's done with it – it's pretty impressive.
"For any young kid aspiring to play in the NRL, Cronk is a great example of what you can achieve if you work hard.
"He has showed how working hard, knuckling down and committing to something can get you far in rugby league.
"There's no one more professional than Cronk."
With questions still remaining as to whether he will play on next year in Sydney or take up a position either coaching or in the media, Cronk wasn't afforded any possible Queensland Origin farewell and Tate doesn't expect to see any fanfare directed his way as he potentially plays at AAMI Park for the final time.
"The preliminary final will be his last home game in Melbourne, but he'll play the occasion down massively because that's what he does," says Tate, who played seven Origins for Queensland alongside Cronk.
"He'll say it's not a huge deal and he probably won't realise how big of a deal it actually is until after he retires from the game.
"He won't want the players talking about it, he won't want the coaches talking about it, but I'm sure it'll be on everyone's mind."
The Finals Week Three issue of Big League looks at the key men who have their team's grand final fortunes in their hands, all the NRL, NYC and Intrust Super team lists, part two in the series of 2017 team posters, the Big League Player of the Year plus the top eight finals gambles. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.