Cooper Cronk has admitted that he is “a long shot” to be fit in time to face his former club in Sunday’s NRL Grand Final. The legendary halfback led Melbourne Storm to Grand Final glory last season, and Sydney Roosters signed him in order to repeat the feat this year. He has duly delivered thus far, as a rejuvenated Roosters team surged past Souths in the preliminary final at the weekend to qualify for the big game. But Cronk hurt his left shoulder as he went for a field goal attempt and the second half passed him by.
“I’m not going to go into the details of the injury because at the moment, with all due respect, it’s on a need-to-know basis and at the moment you don’t need to know,” he told a press conference this week. “The whole idea is, it’s one hell of a game, we’ve got seven days. I’m going to do everything I possibly can to play on Sunday.”
Cronk is now 34 years of age and his opportunities to play in big games are running out, so he will be desperate to declare himself fit for the Grand Final. But experts say the chances of him thriving while nursing such an injury are slim. It would be a shame for the neutrals if they were denied the opportunity to see Cronk go up against Cameron Smith and Billy Slater in the biggest game of the season, but that sadly looks as though it might be the case. Yet even after taking that into account, if you check out a review of the best betting websites and find the best Grand Final odds on the market, you will see that both teams are absolutely neck and neck in the betting. Bookmakers are offering $1.91 on either team, so it really is a pick ’em final.
More bets are going on Melbourne right now, probably due to the Cronk news, but the Roosters are by no means a one-man team. Tonga star Daniel Tupou, Australia winger Blake Ferguson and Paul Momirovski all scored to clinch the victory for the Roosters over the Rabbitohs, and the strong performance illustrated just how much quality there is in the Sydney ranks.
Yet they will need to be at their best to gun down Melbourne, who were handed a huge boost on Tuesday when Billy Slater was cleared to play in the Grand Final. In a three-hour hearing, a three-member judiciary panel found the retiring fullback not guilty of a grade one shoulder charge on Cronulla’s Sosaia Feki in last Friday night’s preliminary final in Melbourne. It allows the legendary Storm star to play one last game before hanging up his boots, and he will be desperate to go out with a bang.
“I’d just like to thank the judiciary members for a fair hearing,” said Slater. “It was important for me tonight to get my point across and what my intentions were in this incident. Now it’s important for me to focus on the game. I haven’t started my preparation for the game as yet. That starts as of now. Now it’s time to play in the Grand Final.”
He gave an impassioned speech at the hearing, arguing that Feki changed direction on his run and that he was forced to make the hit to protect himself and the Cronulla winger from injury. The decision is certainly controversial, but many fans are now excited about seeing Slater one last time in the biggest game of the year. Now all it needs is for Cronk to shake off his injury and we will be in for an epic Grand Final showdown.