What Cronk signing means for Roosters

The Sydney Roosters announced the signing of Storm premiership-winning halfback Cooper Cronk on Monday, so what does that mean for everyone else?

Here are five questions to come out of the signing. 

Are the Sydney Roosters over the salary cap?

While you'd imagine the club has created enough space knowing Cronk was a free agent long ago, it's a question that seems to pop up every time the Roosters make a marquee signing.

The club has lost Aidan Guerra, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Connor Watson and Kane Evans for next season, to go with James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings in the last three years.

In return they've recruited Michael Gordon and Luke Keary as the only recognised signings during that period, along with a host of low-key additions. 

What will be interesting is the retention and recruitment moving forward. 

Cronk will be almost 36 by the end of the contract, but his signing is set to have an effect on the players around him.

Co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend are off contract in 2018, as well as Keary and Blake Ferguson.

Both Keary and boom youngster Latrell Mitchell are seeking contract upgrades for beyond next season. 

Are the Sydney Roosters 2018 title favourites?

The Roosters are hopeful Cronk will bring the same level of professionalism as Sonny Bill Williams did in 2013 and guide the club to another premiership, and the bookies will most likely be swayed that too. 

They'll rightfully start as title favourites given their recruitment of the Storm halfback and James Tedesco, but early favouritism rarely sits comfortably with any side and Cronk's signing will only add an intense level of pressure to deliver. 

Their draw is rated one of the friendliest for 2018, which is also an added bonus, but a slow start to the season while working on combinations could bring the scrutiny early. ‌

 


What does it mean for Mitchell Pearce?

This burning question has been floating around for weeks. 

It's hard to find reasons why Pearce would want to stay and play second fiddle to Cronk, given he's the incumbent New South Wales halfback and coming into what should be the prime of his career.

The Roosters are reportedly keen on Pearce sticking around, but as reported by NRL.com last week, the halfback is being chased by Manly, while the Knights have also shown some interest. 

The 28-year-old only re-signed with the Tricolours for another two years in February and some argue a change in environment is required, but it's not like Pearce was struggling at the Bondi club – if anything their halves pairing was a strength.

Pearce outnumbered Cronk in all facets of 2017 statistics bar one – try assists – where the Australian No.7 (16) edged him by one.

Can you fit five into four? 

Which brings us to the next question, if Pearce does stick around, where will he play? 

Friend's game around the ruck brought its doubters in 2017 so a bench-hooking role may just be the spot. But like Pearce, will such an established player be willing to revert to a bench role after a decade in the NRL? It hardly sounds enticing given rookie Connor Watson made that spot his own over two seasons in which he regularly played very limited minutes. 

An injury here or there could solve the puzzle, but Pearce will surely be in no mood to wait. 

A move into the lock position has also been discussed, as Pearce is no stranger to a bold line-run, but it's a huge ask for a career halfback to move into the forward pack.

Can Cronk deliver?

Only time will tell what Cronk can produce away from the Melbourne Storm line-up, and vice versa. 

Cronk oozes class in pressure situations, and has expressed his desire to constantly challenge himself. But without the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy around him for the first time, this new chapter will prove a whole new ball game.

However Cronk has picked arguably the best possible spine to walk into and gives himself every chance at earning a premiership with a different club.