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Departing, cut-price youngsters on Cronk standby

Two departing Roosters youngsters whose combined salary is less than half of Cooper Cronk's reported million-dollar wage loom as his replacement if he is ruled out of a showdown with the Storm outfit he guided to four grand final wins.

Cronk will keep the news cycle ticking over this week as he battles a "severe left rotator cuff injury" to play in Sunday's decider against Melbourne, with the club giving him up until game day to prove his fitness.

Should the club's biggest import since Brad Fittler fail to get up for the clash, Wests Tigers-bound utility Ryan Matterson is the man most likely to be elevated into the halves in his last game for the Tricolours.

A halfback in his junior days before bulking up and evolving into an edge runner, Matterson has played eight games at five-eighth for the Roosters in the past two years, most recently outside Cronk a month ago when Luke Keary was sidelined with a knee injury.

As a bigger body and sound defensive option, the 23-year-old would shore up the Roosters' right edge and leave the bulk of the playmaking and kicking duties to Keary, who excelled in the second half of the preliminary final against the Rabbitohs while Cronk played with one arm.

Roosters halfback Sean O'Sullivan.
Roosters halfback Sean O'Sullivan. ©NRL Photos

Matterson sought, and was granted, a release from the final year of his Roosters deal two weeks ago to link with the Tigers in 2019, chasing the regular starting berth he has struggled to land in a star-studded side at Bondi.

Speaking on The Footy Show on Channel Nine, Fittler also tossed up young half Sean O'Sullivan as a replacement option at the scrum base.

O'Sullivan will take up a two-year deal with the Broncos next year having made his Telstra Premiership debut against the Titans in round 18, and then spending three straight games on the bench without seeing any game time against Canberra, North Queensland and South Sydney in August.

Among a host of big earners at the Roosters, it is understood the combined salaries of Matterson and O'Sullivan clock in at around $400,000 this season, light years away from Cronk's status as one of the game's million-dollar men.

"Someone like Sean O'Sullivan ... he plays a bit like Cooper – very strategic, gets the game on. But it's a huge ask going into a grand final," Fittler said.

"You look at [Storm No.7] Brodie Croft's development this year – came in, was a little bit full of himself, so the coach said 'Get back' [to reserve grade], he worked hard, came back and killed it. But Sean O'Sullivan hasn't had that luxury.

"Maybe they then play Ryan Matterson at five-eighth and Luke Keary at halfback, that's another option.

"Victor Radley has played a lot in the halves. So you don't weaken your defence line but you do lose his [Cronk's] communication and organisation."

Roosters veteran Mitch Aubusson would be a similarly left-field option as Fittler's Radley suggestion - the 30-year-old made his debut as a makeshift No.6 in 2007.

The other half on the Roosters' books this year was former Raiders playmaker Mitch Cornish, who deputised for Keary in round one when he was battling concussion.

But Cornish has returned to his home town of Goulburn to play alongside his brother Tyler next year, calling time on his NRL career at 25 despite the Roosters' interest in re-signing him for 2019. 


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