Cooper Cronk Will Play NRL Grand Final
All week he has looked, both literally and figuratively, like the proverbial chook with a broken wing.
But Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk has been cleared to play for the Sydney Roosters against the Melbourne Storm in the NRL Grand Final which kicks off at 7:20 pm AEST.
The 34-year-old halfback injured his shoulder in the Roosters' 12-4 preliminary final win over the Rabbitohs, but played on, showing enormous courage.
It was later revealed he had a rotator cuff injury, and for much of grand final week, the main story has been: will he or won't he play?
If this were any normal game, the answer would have been no. Although Cronk is an extremely durable player who has missed just 18 games through injury in the past 13 seasons, this is clearly a serious injury.
But grand finals don't come around every day, and after Cronk passed his final medical with the Roosters, the decision was his and coach Trent Robinson's to make. They made it. At 6:20pm, he was named on the official team sheet.
"He was probably out Friday morning and then we did some other stuff Friday night and said 'I think I can do this,'" Trent Robinson said just before the game.
"It's a big call but it's Cooper. He's toughest guy I've ever seen mentally."
Just what that "other stuff" was that happened on Friday night will hopefully emerge after the match. For now, the stage is set. And for so many reasons, Cronk is central to the narrative of the 2018 NRL Grand Final.
The Queensland champion played 14 seasons at the Storm, winning four grand finals. He then moved to Sydney this year to be with his sports presenter partner Tara Rushton, and signed a two-year deal with the Roosters.
And because the rugby league gods have an excellent sense of both humour and drama, the 2018 season-decider was was of course a match-up between the Roosters and the Storm.
The Roosters had no ready-made replacement for Cronk in the key halfback spot. Without him, their re-shuffled line-up would have been considered a slim chance win.
With him? Well, much depends on how that shoulder holds up.
One thing you can bank on is that the Roosters big men will run at him as much as possible.