Cronk preparing for last hurrah against great mate Thurston
Sydney Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk preferred to talk up taking on great mate Johnathan Thurston for the final time than focus on a reported feud with former Storm teammate Cameron Smith on Tuesday.
Cronk and Thurston will lock horns for their 21st and final time on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium with Thurston's career just five games away from finishing.
Between them they have amassed more than 660 NRL appearances, 13 years of State of Origin dominance and a World Cup final victory as halves in 2013.
"I didn't really think about it until I got asked in the media about how's it going to feel," Cronk said.
"John and I go a long way back, I've got a lot of love and admiration for the guy. He's played a part in my career to one day when I'm old and grey I can be fond of the achievements and he's played a big part in that.
"Hopefully I've returned serve on a couple of occasions and hopefully we can a little moment whether it's pre-game, during or post the game. The one thing I can say, he'll get all the wraps he should in the world in terms of his career, performances and everything he's achieved.
"I'll take a different approach ... he's inspired the next generation of rugby league players. There's 20-30 thousand kids across Queensland and New South Wales that play junior rugby league and want to be like Johnathan Thurston, probably wearing his head gear he's given out or the kicking tee that he's given to a few of the kids in the crowd.
"That's the biggest thing, in 10-20 years' time when you see Queensland and NSW playing, I dare say one of them will want to be like Johnathan Thurston."
Cronk dismissed talk the Cowboys halfback had played a year too long, though he respected the media's right to comment on what they have watched in 2018.
The Roosters halfback also laughed off suggestions this season could be his last, especially if he could guide the Tricolours to a second title in five seasons.
"Hell no, I can honestly say whatever happens this year, whether we lose every game or win every game from here on, I'll still be pulling on the red, white and blue jersey next year," Cronk said.
"It's rubbish, I never judge anyone on what they do. I don't know where it came from. That's factually very incorrect."
While Cronk was preparing for a final hurrah against Thurston, he was forced to answer questions surrounding his relationship with Melbourne skipper Smith following recent reports the pair have fallen out following Cronk's departure from the premiers last season.
When they engaged in a cold handshake at the Adelaide Oval in round 16, it only intensified the speculation.
"Read into it what you will, dissect into it as much as you want," Cronk said, talking for the first time about his relationship with Smith.
"And rightly so, you can take it as you're right, you might be right, you might be wrong but as far as I stand here today everything is ok.
"From my point of view everything is fine. He's had a positive impact as he always has, he's been playing the game longer than most and consistently longer than most.
"He's a competitor and fine art in his position with his skillset is the best the game has ever seen."