Cooper Cronk celebrates after the Storm's grand final triumph.
Cooper Cronk celebrates after the Storm's grand final triumph. DAN HIMBRECHTS

How Chooks got their man

IT was a secret face-to-face meeting with Roosters coach Trent Robinson that convinced Cooper Cronk to sign on with the Tricolours.

Nick Politis was in Greece when the Roosters first reached out to Cronk's management.

While the chairman was heavily involved, principally it was coach Trent Robinson who held the bulk of their conversations.

To wade through the Cronk deal, we must first go back to the grand final.

Cronk and his manager George Mimis met for lunch on the Friday after claiming the 2017 premiership to celebrate the win and discuss his options.

It was then they had their first conversation around clubs who had expressed interest in signing the playmaker.

Cronk will still non-committal at this stage. Aware of the interest from clubs, he we wanted to take another week to think about his next move. He would either retire or put himself on the market.

The expectation from some of those closest to him was that he would retire.

That changed while on holiday.

Escaping Australia after the grand final victory, Cronk was sunning himself on a beach in Fiji when the thought of playing on refused to leave his mind.

The following week, he and Mimis caught up again. This time, Cronk had made a decision. He told Mimis he still had "some petrol in the tank and more to achieve".

Part of his desire to play on was his evolution as a student of the game.

It was during this conversation that Cronk drew up a short list of clubs he believed suited his style and had people who could not only help him grow as a player but also as a person.

The Roosters weren't the only club in talks with Cronk. Several expressed interest.

One club to keep close tabs on the No.7 was South Sydney. Former Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire had been in regular contact with Cronk via text throughout the season.

It's unclear if the Rabbitohs would've been a contender had Maguire remained in the coach's chair. Regardless, it was clear the Roosters were the standout choice.

Mimis held conversations with each of the clubs Cronk was interested in before the star decided on the Roosters a week ago. It was swift.


Cooper Cronk announcing his plan to leave Melbourne at the end of the 2017 season.
Cooper Cronk announcing his plan to leave Melbourne at the end of the 2017 season. JULIAN SMITH

Several conversations were had with the Roosters' decision-makers in the days after he announced he would play on next season, and within a few more days the deal was finalised.

What was perhaps the most interesting point about Cronk's first meeting with Robinson is that Cronk had already preconceived a lot of what the coach was going to say.

He understood the club's playing structure, having opposed them for so many years. There was no light-bulb moment but the boxes were being ticked as the pair spoke.

Cronk is big on respect. While he commands the camera, speaking with poise and authority when on television, behind closed doors he's more of a listener.

It was during his face time with Robinson that he sat and listened.

The biggest question Cronk needed to answer was: could he fit into what the Roosters already had, as opposed to the other way around. It was about his contribution to the team.

Something Cronk wants to make clear is that his decision starts and stops with football.

He chose the Roosters based on their coach and his belief in Robinson to bring out the best in him and - despite turning 34 in December - to challenge him.


Cooper Cronk during a Kangaroos training session.
Cooper Cronk during a Kangaroos training session. TRACEY NEARMY

After realising he would fit into the culture and Robinson's plan, Roosters chief executive Joe Kelly, Politis, Robinson and Mimis thrashed out the deal.

Surprisingly, the two-year-deal was a straight-forward negotiation.

Unlike the Darius Boyd contract, which Cronk's manager Mimis also brokered, there's no post-football element attached to the contract as it stands.

But make no mistake, life after football was and is a major consideration.

"What he'll do post-football weren't a part of these discussions," Mimis said.

What most people don't know is that Cronk and his management have been in talks with the NRL for the past 18 months about his future.

Working with the governing body post-career is inevitable.

Working with Melbourne in a part-time coaching capacity also remains on the table but has not been signed off on.

"We'll pursue that when we reach that juncture," Mimis said.

He has another 24 months to iron out his plan for retirement.

In the meantime, he's focused on finishing the year with a World Cup victory for Australia, before joining his new teammates for training in January.

News Corp Australia

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