By Aaron Callaghan
Two greats retired from their respective sports this week.
Both fantastic servants of the game. George Smith an outstanding Australian Wallabies and super rugby loose foward with the QLD Reds and ACT Brumbies and Cooper Cronk in the halves for Melbourne Storm, Sydney Rooster, Queensland Maroons and Australia.
Firstly we’ll send George Smith off into retirement.
Rugby union back rowers are often graded on many aspects of their play, not the least being the ability to snag turnover ball at the break down and George Smith can walk in stride with some of the great back rowers ever. Richie McCaw being Smith’s number one nemesis through the 2000’s. Smith, like McCaw combined smart (cheating) ruck play with strong ball running one pass off the ruck, invariably getting across the gain line.
It is fair to say with regard to back rowers if the opposition team hates you - you are doing your job right. The South African team of the 2000’s led by Victor Matfield would often try to grab a handful of George Smith’s deadlocks at a breakdown - mostly to spite George Smith and his turnovers.
RELATED: Israel Folau reactions
#1 Dreadlocks Gone
George Smith was known for his dreadlocks however in 2006 he shaved them off for charity with all proceeds going to kids with cancer.
# 2 - The Waratahs passed on Smith
Smith was born and raised on Sydney’s northern beaches and the NSW Waratahs passed on him in 1999, allowing the ACT Brumbies to sign him and gift him a super rugby debut in 2000, where the Brumbies went to the final.
George Smith snared two John Eales medals for best Australian rugby player in 2002 and 2008. Smith went on to play 111 test matches and 142 Super Rugby games.
Cooper Cronk was instrumental in the Melbourne Storms success over the last 15 years salary cap issues aside, he is a truly reliable, reliable half and has transitioned into the Roosters set up seamlessly. Cronk made a huge sacrifice in giving up his Storm employment to follow his wife to Sydney to further her career which undoubtedly cost Cronk certain relationships in the Storm club, however it is fair to say you do anything for those you love.
So Cameron Smith pick up the phone and mend the fence.
Perhaps Cooper Cronk’s crowning achievement was the Sydney Roosters 2018 NRL Grand Final victory. For all the brain dead Facebook commenters saying he did nothing on the field, well on the surface that is true, he kicked and passed when he needed to, but look deeper, a player with vast amounts of big game experience on the field to coach the young guys through the intense heat of the spotlights in the biggest game of the year. Cooper Cronk put players in the spots they needed to be and most importantly pulled on the strings for Luke Keary when needed.
The Roosters might have won had Cronk been unable to take the field but it’s in the history books now as a famous Roosters victory.
Watch the Highlights below
Cronk is an incredibly intelligent league halfback and punches above his weight in defence, teams do not target him on attack because he’s simply a professional and his legacy is probably that professional, winning, competent, smart rugby league play.
Cooper Cronk has won 5 premierships, sort of, Melbourne Storm were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 titles, probably fair enough but the Storm won them on the day. Cronk has won almost 73% of his State of Origin appearences for Queensland. That’s incredibly hard to read as a New South Welshman.
Cooper Cronk has won the Dally M Halfback of the Year five times - 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016, as well as the Dally M Player of the Year twice in 2013 and 2016.
Cooper Cronk looks certain to either enjoy a long career on Channel 9 or move into the coaching ranks having served one of the best apprenticeships you could imagine, a halfback in Craig Bellamy’s system.
The Unsportsmen wish both gentlemen the very best of luck in your next endeavours.