Two years after arriving as arguably the most-hyped recruit in Roosters history, and with at most two games left in one of rugby league's most celebrated careers, Cooper Cronk has handed over the red, white and blue reins.
"Is this Luke Keary's team?"
"Absolutely. He can have it," Cronk quips.
Good judges and NRL numbers say Keary does.
With their run at back-to-back titles seemingly timed down to the minute, the Tricolours attack has looked slickest when Keary has been present.
Including the late-May loss to Newcastle (when an early concussion knocked Keary out of the contest and NSW's Origin campaign), the Roosters win percentage without their five-eighth drops to 33 percent (two wins from six games).
Keary has long been groomed as Cronk's senior playmaking successor.
And since carrying the injured No.7 last October with a premiership, Clive Churchill medal and Kangaroos debut for reward, has taken charge more and more from Cronk.
Keary is handling the ball almost 20 per cent more this year compared to 2018, with his try and line break assists increasing despite getting less game-time through injury.
His kicking load has doubled as well, Keary forcing twice as many dropouts than he did last year and improving even further when it comes to kick yardage.
Cronk's numbers, meanwhile, have stayed the course.
But there has been a distinct shift at Roosters HQ – driven by the champion half himself – to ensure Cronk's retirement is as seamless as possible.
"You’ve got to give a little and take a little to accommodate the other person," Keary says.
"He’s been awesome at that. I feel like he’s had to change his style more than we’ve had to change our style for him and he’s added to our game as a team and myself too.
Match: Roosters v Storm
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
"I’m not sure what he was like in Melbourne but he’s one of the most selfless people I’ve played with.
"There’s no ego in it, he doesn’t care if he’s the man in the spotlight or the bloke who takes a backward step.
"For myself, he’s let me progress. Even the last-tackle stuff, something simple like that, he’s let me kind of take over especially this year, just to progress my game.
"There’s a lot to him. He’s obviously very smart, he knows how to deal with people really well.
"But he’s selfless and puts everyone else before him. It’s been good for us."
Cronk squares off against his old Melbourne teammates for the last time on Saturday night, curtains coming to a close on a 370-game career that includes three premierships and another two grand final wins with the Storm (titles later stripped due to salary cap rorting).
The Roosters paid top dollar in late 2017 to have Cronk deliver the title they figured Mitchell Pearce couldn't.
Bookmakers have him odds-on to double down on last year's premiership.
Both Cronk and Keary point to the rude health his playmaking prowess leaves the Roosters in, with Cronk still slated to stay on next year and mentor young halves Kyle Flanagan and Lachlan Lam.
"Part of my job here is to make sure the next crop of players is ready to take the club to the next step," Cronk says matter-of-factly.
"I'm more than happy to play my role in this football team. I've had my fair share of being front and centre of things."
"His influence and the things he’s taught me has probably added that side of the game for me," Keary says of his game management.
"Once he’s done and we sit down and reflect on it I’ll realise just how much of an influence he’s had."