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'Shirt full of sore ribs': Cronk expects to be targeted

Cooper Cronk expects the fractured scapula that was likened to injuries usually seen in car crash victims to be targeted every week of the Roosters' premiership defence, starting with the Rabbitohs hit man who first gave it to him.

Cronk returns from off-season shoulder surgery against South Sydney at the SCG on Friday night, his 350th NRL game and first outing on Australian soil since guiding his team to the 2018 title with one arm hanging by his side.

It was British Bunny Sam Burgess whose first hit had Cronk in all sorts six months ago, belting the veteran half early as the Roosters ground their way past their archrivals in last year's grand final qualifier.

Burgess will shift to the opposite of the field to Cronk under new coach Wayne Bennett, but the Rabbitohs forward pack still boast plenty of heavy hitters capable of going after to Cronk.

Meanwhile Angus Crichton lines up as the No.7's bodyguard in his first game since crossing the Anzac Parade divide on a multimillion-dollar deal.

Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk.
Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk. ©NRL Photos

"It's not my first rodeo, I know what's about to happen," Cronk said of an expected battering from the Bunnies' big men.

"I love it. It gets me out of bed most mornings; to physically test myself and compete against the best.

"Sam's given me a shirt full of sore ribs for a long period of time now so I'm expecting exactly the same.

"At the end of the day, I do my job, he does his and I'll never shirk my responsibility. He can hit me with a freight train and I'll still get up hopefully and be able to play my role".

Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess.
Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess. ©NRL Photos

Cronk agreed when it was put to him that he can expect to be targeted by opposition defences for the entirety of what could be his final season in the NRL.

"They will and they have every right to do so," he said.

"But I have every right to stand there, get back up and try as best I possibly can. It's been a part of rugby league for over 110 years.

"You try and target someone, someone who's injured, whatever it is but as long as you go on willing to put your hand up and play that game of football, then it's a free target.

"But Friday night or for the rest of the season, I'm not going to sit up back and just get myself beaten up. I can't fight but I'm going to get out there, have a red-hot crack and try and do my role for the team."

Cronk turned 35 last December and is off contract at season's end.

Already speculation has swung both ways since the Roosters' grand final triumph – that Cronk could up stumps a year early and retire or continue playing on in with another one-year deal in 2020.

Roosters and Rabbitohs weigh-in on SCG turf debate

The two-time Dally M medallist wants to settle on the paddock first as he returns from one of the few serious injuries of his career before making a call on his future midway through the season.

"I'm off contract and my date of birth says I probably should be [retiring]," Cronk said.

"I'll give myself two or three months to get through the first part of the season to make sure I'm doing good things physically.

"I know exactly my situation, I'm closer to the end rather than the beginning but I'll just remove it for a period of time, make sure I get the footy stuff sorted."