BY BOZZA AND DAN
The Salary Cap Sombrero (h/t the Cumberland Throw) in Bondi has struck again with the Sydney Roosters announcing this week the signing of Cooper Cronk for the next two NRL seasons. Despite being captained by the NSW skipper and already possessing the NSW halfback, fullback and their future five-eighth, the Roosters had both the funds and the need to add the Queensland and Australian halfback to the mix.
Needless to say NRL punditry has gone into melt down as a result of the Roosters acquisition. While there are some who have perched themselves squarely on the fence the loudest voices have declared it either – one of the greatest signing coups by the men from Bondi or a disaster waiting to happen for the club.
As it is one of the pressing matters of our time, we at The Sportress have decided to get to the bottom of the debate and give to you the Cases for and Against the signing of Cooper Cronk.
Cooper Cronk is up there with the best of the modern era. Only Thurston in his time exceeds him. His organisational play, highly intelligent kicking game, willingness and ability to take on the line are all unquestionable, as his is record at all levels of the game. In short, the man can get it done.
So why on earth would his addition be a problem for the Roosters?
- Pearce can’t defend at 9
First get out of your head that Pearce is going to play hooker. This would be hilarious and stupid and brilliant for all of us who hate/admire/hate the Roosters. While the number 9 position needs more ball-play than in previous eras (see Cameron Smith and Josh Hodgson), it still requires a lot of grunt work. Pearce is a fine defender…for a halfback. With Pearce at 9 teams won’t have to find a second-rower to find a small man to get momentum into sets. They can just set their plodders up the middle and run right up the Roosters.
- Jake Friend is actually good.
Then you realise that the man who fills that spot for the Roosters – Jake Friend – already is an accomplished ball-player, a better defender and should play 80 minutes every game. So no. The Roosters are not going to waste defence and interchanges on playing Pearce at 9 or 14. Ditto for Luke Keary, who’s running approach fits much better beside Pearce or Cronk than they fit together.
So Pearce will go.
- Pearce is in his prime.
The Roosters would be giving up on a 28 year old halfback on a reasonable salary smack bang in the middle of his prime. Peace has already won premierships with the Roosters. He’s played 17 origins. His first half of 2017 was the best football he’s played. Now is the time to double down on him.
Think about the great halves of recent generations. Ricky Stuart was masterful at 27 in 1994, guiding the 1994 Canberra Raiders (otherwise known as the Single Greatest Team In Rugby League History™) to the premiership. Allan Langer was 26 in 1992 and 32 in 1998 when he was guiding around some handy Broncos sides. Andrew Johns was 27 when he led the Knights to their last premiership. Darren Lockyer led to Broncos to their last premiership at 29. Sure Cronk did it last year at 34, but frankly, the requirements of Cronk to create were ameliorated by the presence of Cameron Smith. All of a sudden Cronk will be trying to fashion relationships in 2 years that took much longer to perfect in Melbourne.
- The squad is set for a long period of dominance.
The second reason giving up a Pearce is bad idea is simply the age profile of their squad. Boyce Cordner is 25. Dylan Napa is 24. James Tedesco is 24. They have 6-8 years of potentially being the dominant side of the competition. The Storm of the 2020s. But Cronk will be gone in 2 years time, and you could be wasting the primes of Cordner, Napa and Teddy with Luke Keary on the hope that they can oust the still awesome Storm, the frankly scary Cowboys, the rejuvenated Broncos and the ‘potentially partnering Maloney and Cleary’ Panthers. If this doesn’t come off, they could be standing there, cap in hand with no premierships, no Cronk and no Pearce in 2020.
Oh who am I kidding. It’s the Roosters. They’ll probably win 2 premierships then sign Nathan Cleary in 2020.
I am sure that Dan has listed statistics and age profiles in support of his argument against the signing. He will also have somehow found a way to squeeze Josh Hodgson, a Canberra Premiership, Gary Belcher, or all three into his take too. There will be none of that kind of nonsense on this side of the fence.
It has surprised me somewhat the fervour at which certain media outlets have argued the case that the Roosters have made a mistake in acquiring Cooper Cronk. So surprised that I needed to double check that they had in fact signed the incumbent Australian halfback and not Jarryd Hayne or Todd Carney.
While I understand the question mark over his age, we are talking about the starting halfback for the Origin winning Queensland team, Premiership winning Storm team and World Cup Champion-Elect Kangaroo team. We aren’t talking about Allan Langer returning to the NRL after three season out, although he was more than serviceable for the QLD and the Broncos upon his return in 2002, we are talking about the best halfback playing the game in Australia today.
I do understand that unprecedented nature of a team with the NSW halfback contracted to them for two more years looking to upgrade in the position. When presented in this light it would appear to be a risk with little reward. That’s only true if you consider the situation like Parramatta looking to upgrade their 1987 playing stocks by signing Queensland five eighth Wally Lewis when they already had NSW pivot Brett Kenny rather than looking at it like Redcliffe signing Australian and NSW Halfback Peter Sterling when they already the QLD Incumbent Mark Murray. With due respect to both Lewis and Murray, the gap in class between the State of Origin halfbacks was much greater than that between their five eighths.
In my mind, if the Australian halfback comes knocking on your door and says he wants to play with your club, you do what you can to ensure a deal gets done to ensure he wears your number seven. On any measure Cooper Cronk is a winner and by all accounts an upstanding pillar of the community. If he wants to play at your club you do what you can to make it happen.
There is no question that the move will have a massive impact on Mitchell Pearce, Luke Keary, Jake Friend or all three. Yet it is amazing what sins winning can mask and it is hard to mount a case that doesn’t see the Roosters being at the very pointy end of the competition again next season. At the end of the day you play football to win Premierships and if Pearce, Keary or Friend leave because their ego is hurt by the club improving it’s chances, are they really worth keeping in the first place?
What do you think, have the Roosters made a mistake or a masterstroke? Have your say in the poll below.