The NRL Grand Final has brought down the curtain on another enthralling week of drama – as the courageous Cooper Cronk defied the normal, medical advice and took his place in the Champion Roosters team to win the title.
Cronk’s heroics will be long remembered and his influence on the team – against his old club on the game’s biggest stage – will be savoured as the Chook’s celebrate their 2nd premiership in six years.
The Roosters outplayed the Storm and their commitment to defence this year has been exceptional.
If you cast your minds back 12 mths ago – their plans to win the 2018 Grand Final started – when Cronk announced that he was leaving Melb to be with his partner in Sydney and was planning to get married.
Cronk was linked with a number of clubs – but his decision to join the Roosters was linked by his drive to be successful and to play in a team that had the same type of qualities as the one he had departed.
He was always going to join a club with a strong roster, some strong leadership and a smart coach in Trent Robinson.
Together with the recruitment of the game’s Kangaroos’ successor to Billy Slater at fullback in James Tedesco – and you could see that the Roosters have added two key pieces to the jigsaw puzzle to advance a least a week further than last season.
Although Cronk announced publicly that he would not divulge the secrets to Melbourne’s blueprint for ongoing success, there is no question that he would have had lengthy conversations with his new coach about the type of tactics that would need to adopt to beat Melbourne in the GF.
The Roosters adopted a Storm style of game plan with tremendous intent in their line speed and contact in defence – limiting the them to 1300 metres and only one try – an intercept.
Their kicking game by Luke Keary was exceptional and their kick chase in limiting the Storm’s back five was outstanding for 80 minutes.
The intensity of their defence forced Melb into making some uncharacteristic errors – a total of 15 while the Roosters made only six errors and carried the football for more than 1700 metres.
Keary was the worthy winner of the Clive Churchill Medal but he was well supported by his co-captains Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner who led the Roosters superbly.
It’s never good to be on the losing end of a GF and it was a sad way to say farewell to Billy Slater who played his last game in Storm colours in front of a less than appreciative, Sydney based crowd.
Ironically, he played alongside his great mate Cameron Smith and against his great mate Cooper Cronk for the last time.
Despite the loss – he will soon reflect on his wonderful career in which he achieved everything and will be remembered as the best fullback in the modern era.
The changing of the guard in the Kangaroos line-up must now take place – with preparations about to commence for upcoming Tests against the Kiwis on Oct 13 and Tonga on Oct 20 in Auckland NZ.
Assessments of form and fitness have taken place before the Test squad was announced today.
Cameron Munster has won the battle for the No 6 jumper ahead of Luke Keary who made a late charge for inclusion after his man of the match performance.
James Tedesco will be fullback, Daly Cherry-Evans will be halfback and Damian Cook will play hooker.
They will be joined by Latrell Mitchell who will make his debut in the centres alongside Greg Inglis as he is announced as the next Kangaroos captain.
Places in the outside backs were up for grabs with Valentine Holmes assured of his place and Tom Trbojevic displacing Dane Gagai on the wing – after he was cleared of a fractured cheekbone.
Tyrone Peachey who has shown great versatility will make his Test debut after his contribution the Blues Origin series win.
James Tedesco, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, David Klemmer, Damian Cook, Jordan McClean, Boyd Cordner, Felise Kaufusi, Jake Trbojevic, Regan Campbell-Gillard, Aaron Woods, Tyson Frizell, Josh McGuire, Ben Hunt and Tyrone Peachey.