Cronk primed to tackle JT for final time
ARGUABLY Queensland's greatest rugby league halves pairing, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, will call time on their long on-field association from opposite sides of the field on Saturday night.
Denied a proper State of Origin farewell together last year due to injuries and shock retirements, the two great combatants will play on the same field for a 64th and final time when the Sydney Roosters host North Queensland.
At a professional level, the pair faced off for the first time when they came off the bench for Melbourne and Canterbury in the 2004 finals but have since won seven Origin series together for the Maroons and a World Cup.
But that will end at Allianz Stadium, with Thurston's Cowboys completely out of finals contention ahead of his impending retirement.
"There is a little bit of sentiment," Cronk said.
"Hopefully at some stage we get to share a little moment we can reflect on with his days almost at an end and mine are probably coming sometime soon as well.
"There are probably 20,000 kids that play junior rugby league on a Saturday morning in Queensland and the rest of the country that want to be Johnathan Thurston.
"He hands out his kicking tee, he hands out his headgear, they sit at home and watch him do his show and go and they want to be like him.
"He has inspired a generation of the next rugby league players."
Not all are upset to see the pair play together for the last time though.
Roosters co-captain Boyd Cordner has felt the wrath of Thurston numerous times, not least of which involved growing up as a NSW fan before copping three Origin series losses to the veteran Maroon.
"It's sad to see him retire at the end of the year but for teams coming up against him I think it will be a good thing as well," Cordner mused.
"He's been such a great player, leader and role model for our game for such a long time.
"He's a great footballer and more importantly a better bloke. He's someone that whatever he says he's going to do."
Meanwhile Cronk insisted both he and fellow Queensland great Cameron Smith remained on speaking terms.
Eyebrows were raised when the Roosters halfback briefly shook his former Melbourne teammate's hand but embraced everyone else who greeted him when they played in June, while reports continue to circulate that they have fallen out.
"From my point of view it absolutely is fine," he said.
"I know there will be a lot of talk about it and everyone has their right to adjudicate or have an opinion but I'm not in the area of commenting on it publicly.
"We're absolutely fine; we've spoken different times."