Boyd's Plea For Cronk To Play On
There's a generational change happening within the Queensland camp before our very eyes but Maroons fullback Darius Boyd has urged Cooper Cronk to play on again in 2018 in order to make the transition a smooth one.
The withdrawal of Johnathan Thurston on Thursday will see Anthony Milford make his State of Origin debut for Queensland next Wednesday night, forming a new-look halves combination with Cronk and taking the first step towards a new era for the Maroons.
The retirement last year of Corey Parker and injuries to Thurston, Greg Inglis and Matt Scott for Game One has given this Queensland team a very different look, with 24-year-old Roosters prop Dylan Napa to also debut in the front row alongside Nate Myles.
In announcing he would be missing Game One, Thurston reiterated the fact that he would be stepping down from representative football at the end of 2017 and with Cronk's playing future still undecided the Maroons could have a completely new scrum-base combination in 12 months' time.
Committed to moving to Sydney at the end of the season but still undecided as to whether he will play on, Cronk said he won't make a decision either way until after the Origin series but Boyd remains hopeful he will play for at least one more year.
"Obviously from a Queensland point of view we'd love to see him keep playing. We'd love to see JT keep playing as well," Boyd said.
"That's Cooper's decision but we'd love to see him play on for sure.
"Everyone's got to retire at some stage so it might be handy if 'Milf' (Milford) plays this year if we have a couple of guys retiring so it's not all at once. Or at least Milf has had the experience from this year to go on for next year with a new half."
Cronk joins the prestigious group of Queensland players to have represented their state in 20 Origin matches on Wednesday night, becoming the 27th Maroon to be awarded the Dick 'Tosser' Turner Medal.
But while Cameron Smith's feat of 40 Origin matches will be celebrated next week and Johnathan Thurston's incredible career feted ahead of Game Three, Cronk will happily step away from the limelight without any fanfare if this indeed in his last series.
"I haven't really thought about it being my last series or anything like that but I won't know that until this series has past," Cronk said.
"I think I play each game on its merits and have a bit of fun and give everything I've got and that won't change whether it's my last one or a few to go.
"It's quite special [to play 20 Origins] but I don't want to play it up because it pales in significance to what Cameron Smith's about to do.
"I'm happy to say thank you and I very much appreciate every player and staff that's played a part in me playing those 20 games because to be honest it's 20 of the most memorable games I've ever had in my career. I'm grateful for that but I will be taking a back seat this week. One, it's my personality, but two, there's someone else that deserves a lot more credit for what they've done and their achievements this week.
"I've been fortunate with the career I've had and anything I do from here on out is an absolute blessing. If I stopped tomorrow I'd be a happy man. That's my approach to it. If it happens it happens."
Cronk spent two series coming off the bench for Queensland filling any number of roles, waiting until the retirement of Darren Lockyer to step up and wear the No.7 jersey that has become his own since 2012.
Rather being frustrated at being confined to the sidelines for two years, Cronk sees that initiation as a key factor in being able to now reach the 20-game milestone.
"There were a few stages there where I thought one was never possible but I'm grateful for it," Cronk said of his Origin career.
"It was probably a blessing in disguise because you see a lot of young halves come in probably a little bit too early and struggle with consistency and form and for me, the best thing I ever did for my Origin career was play six games off the bench and defend in the middle third of the field, tackle anything that ran at me and take big hit-ups when I had to.
"I got an understanding and an appreciation of what those guys go through and put me in good stead for what was to come after that."
This article first appeared on NRL.com