Cronk adjusting to life in Sydney's NRL bubble
As Cooper Cronk prepares to square off against Mitchell Pearce for the first time since taking his No.7 jersey, the Sydney Roosters halfback admitted he has had to shut off from all forms of media to avoid his football being "corrupted".
Cronk is unaccustomed to the relentless talk about rugby league in Sydney, managing to go through his entire career under the radar at the Melbourne Storm given the focus on the AFL in Victoria.
This off-season has largely been about the expectation and hype surrounding both Cronk and fellow Roosters recruit James Tedesco, something the Roosters No.7 wanted to avoid.
While there will be no avoiding it this week as he prepares to take on Pearce's Newcastle Knights at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, he admitted he had to clock off from it all leading into the start of the season.
"Rugby league is so strong and passionate in Australia, but in particular Sydney," Cronk said.
"You turn your TV on and it is one of the first stories on the news. If you're driving in a car and listening to the radio and Matthew Johns is talking about it on his show.
''I have never experienced that too much. In the build-up, I am a pretty removed type of guy. In the build-up to round one I probably heard a bit more and read a bit more.
"My natural position is whatever is written - good or bad - it doesn't make me tackle harder or run harder or compete more. The reason I compete is pride in my performance and for my teammates. I just realised that maybe I should pull back a little bit and let my football not be corrupted."
Moments after the Roosters' Friday night victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, an image of Pearce and Cronk was put on the big screen at Allianz Stadium to promote Sunday's clash against the Newcastle Knights, who also have former Roosters trio Aidan Guerra, Connor Watson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall in their team.
A lot will be made of the battle between Pearce and Cronk, but when interviewed after Friday night's win, Cronk didn't want to comment on that match-up until after Pearce got through his round two game against the Knights.
However, the new Roosters halfback did say his relationship with Pearce is better than what it was as a result of the events that unfolded in the off-season.
"I am going to put this out there," Cronk said.
"To be honest, from my point of view our relationship is probably better than it ever was. The extent of my relationship with Mitchell was 'hello, how are you and good luck next week'."
Cronk was back to his brilliant best against the Bulldogs, overcoming the disappointment of a shock first-up loss to the Wests Tigers to lead his new club to their first victory of the Telstra Premiership season.
There was plenty of criticism of Cronk and Tedesco after the loss but the halfback had no problems with the negative talk surrounding the Roosters.
"The way we play the game you open yourself up for criticism, you open yourself up for compliments," he said.
"With all due respect, you take it in the same breath. At the end of the day, training and playing is about improvement. The most important thing for us is the next training session. There is no doubt we play the game - I am never going to jump up and down about criticism or confidence.
"If you don't want to take the pros and cons you probably should hand back half your paycheque. I enjoy it, it is fine. It's part of the game, but the main focus for us whether it is good or bad is the next training session."
The highlight of the victory was the combination of Tedesco and Cronk, who combined for a four-pointer that looked straight out of the Melbourne Storm playbook.
"I suppose the romantic side of it is a nice moment," Cronk said.
"To be honest, me scoring a try it could have been Boyd Cordner running or Dylan Napa. We all have a role to play. I will say this again, the style of play we can play if we all play our role can be quite threatening to the opposition.
"To have James out the back of shape causing some havoc, me controlling the middle of the field and Luke on the other side - hopefully we all play our roles and create space through the middle for our guys on the ages, hopefully, you will see more of that."