June 24, 2024

NRL championship-winning halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Cooper Cronk have disclosed the details of their well-known situation at the Roosters towards the end of 2017.

The rugby league community was shocked when the Roosters secured the signing of Cronk, who many believed was retiring following his victory in the 2017 grand final with Melbourne.

Mitchell Pearce of the Roosters looks dejected after defeat during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the North Queensland Cowboys at Allianz Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Sydney. Getty

This move left Pearce sidelined, only four years after leading the Chooks to a title, and shortly thereafter, he departed for Newcastle.

At the time, Pearce was deeply upset by the decision, but in hindsight, it proved to be the correct move, as Cronk led the Roosters to consecutive premierships in 2018 and 2019.

Following his departure from the Roosters, Pearce spent four seasons with the Knights before joining the Catalans Dragons in the Super League for the final two years of his career, which concluded in 2023.

During a recent appearance on the Matty Johns Podcast, both Cronk and Pearce were questioned by the host about the events of 2017.

Reflecting on the situation, Pearce remarked, “We finished the season and it was in the papers and came up. But look, I got replaced by a much better halfback and a winner, and I can admit that, although it was hard to say that at the time. They went on to win two competitions, and I’d fallen short, so I totally understand the situation now.”

At the time, Cronk made it a priority to reach out to Pearce and address any lingering tensions, but he didn’t stop there. He also had conversations with several other Roosters players, including Jared, Aubo, Friend, and Keary. For Cronk, it was crucial that these discussions were centered on maintaining strong relationships rather than solely focusing on the business aspect of the decision.

Reflecting on those early days, Cronk recalled, “I remember the first thing I did, I spoke to Pearcy on the phone. I also spoke to Jared, Aubo, Friend, Keary, I spoke to everyone it had to be relationship-based as opposed to a business decision… it was difficult.”

He acknowledged that despite some success later on, the beginning wasn’t all smooth sailing, particularly recalling a tough loss on Anzac Day and a 4-4 start to the season.

In hindsight, Cronk emphasized the importance of building and nurturing relationships, recognizing Pearce’s achievements as an elite halfback and acknowledging that his own contributions wouldn’t necessarily surpass what Pearce had already accomplished in the jersey.

“It was undeniably a tough decision, both emotionally and from a football perspective. Emotionally, there were existing relationships at the Roosters that I had to navigate, considering Pearce’s close ties with many of the players. From a football standpoint, it required a significant adjustment for me.

For 14 years, I had developed chemistry with my backrower and my fullback Slater, focusing on attacking edges, which was the cornerstone of my playing style.

However, upon joining the Roosters, I found myself in a different dynamic. Players like Keary and Tedesco possessed a unique ability to move laterally across the field with remarkable speed. Initially, adapting to this new style was challenging.

The first couple of months felt clunky as I had to overhaul my approach, shifting towards a style akin to Adam Reynolds’, which emphasized creating space and facilitating plays from there.

So, both emotionally and strategically, it presented a significant challenge.”

Cooper Cronk of the Roosters in the 2019 grand final. Getty

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