Cooper Cronk expects Sydney Roosters’ bid for World Club Challenge glory against Wigan to be his final ever game on English soil.
The 35-year-old half-back inspired the Roosters to a 21-6 triumph against his former side Melbourne Storm in the Grand Final in September despite playing the entire game with a broken scapula.
He has since returned to full-contact training following surgery on his broken shoulder blade, an injury often seen in car crash victims, and will be fit to face the Warriors at the DW Stadium on Sunday, 7pm kick-off.
But while the former Australia international admits he has not yet decided on his future, he is almost certain the World Cup Challenge battle will be his farewell match in England.
“It most likely will be my final game on English soil,” said the Rugby League World Cup winner. “We’ll see how we go, but I haven’t had that conversation with myself yet.
“Obviously if we’re fortunate enough to play really well and have success this year and I decide to play on then maybe not.
“But in terms of making a decision about my career post-2019 I think it’s really respectful for me to make sure I do all the hard work at this time of year.
“I want to lay the foundations for hopefully a good positive year and then a few months into the season I’ll have those conversations.
“In terms of making a final decision about what 2020 looks like I haven’t had that conversation with myself or the close people around me.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play a fair amount of football over in the north of England and this is another opportunity to be a part of real folklore.
“The atmosphere, the game, the heritage, the history and all those things are combined in a World Club Challenge match, so I feel really grateful for having another opportunity to play.”
Roosters’ victory over Melbourne saw them claim their 14th NRL Premiership title as they set up a mouth-watering World Club Challenge against Super League champions Wigan.
And Cronk, who has won three Premierships during his career, revealed that the chance to face the Warriors in their own backyard helped him keep focused during his journey back to full fitness.
“It was a no brainer for me to have the operation and then fortunately enough I had some time off,” he said. “We did the rehab, I stuck diligently to that and I’ve had no complications since.
“As soon as I decided to have that surgery that was the goal, to complete my recovery to be ready for the game against Wigan Warriors.
“I really respect the World Club Challenge and where it sits in the calendar, I have a high level of regard for it, so it was all guns blazing once I got back into training.”
The Warriors are the only the only team to have won the World Club Challenge four times, with their last title coming in 2017, while Roosters are not far behind them as three-time champions.
Adrian Lam’s side will have home advantage as they welcome the Roosters to the DW Stadium, which will host the match for a fourth time, but Cronk does not fear the challenge that lies ahead.
“Home advantage plays a part, but it doesn’t stop the opposition from playing well too,” said Cronk, who has previously worked with Wigan boss Adrian Lam during his time with the Kangaroos.
“There are some really cool stadiums in England and it is pretty intimidating walking out at Old Trafford or Anfield, playing against English players with an English crowd.
“But it doesn’t stop you from catching the ball in your chest or kicking the ball where you need to kick it or making your tackles. I really enjoy the atmosphere, I love the intensity.
“I love the pressure and hopefully that keeps us all in good stead for a good performance because at the end of the day there’s a title up for grabs and we can be named world champions. It’s a big task in front of us but one we’re looking forward to.”
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.
By Andy Barber