MELBOURNE Storm halfback Cooper Cronk says their late-season losses turned out to be blessings as they prepare for the preliminary final against the North Queensland Cowboys this Saturday.
When the Storm lost to the Tigers in Round 21 and Knights in Round 24, things didn’t look so good for the Storm, but those losses galvanised the franchise.
“It’s taken a few losses for our players to realise that we’re a super good team if we have 17 people contributing and we’re not so if we don’t talk,” Cronk said.
“Those two losses galvanised the group and to go up to Brisbane and then play the Cowboys in the last two weeks, and play the way we did, I think is a result of losing games to the Knights and West Tigers in the rounds before.”
The Storm play the Cowboys at AAMI Park this Saturday where they are currently $2 outsiders with Sportsbet.com.au. The Storm defeated the Cowboys in Round 25 and Cronk is confident they can repeat that effort.
“I take confidence in that, our last four or five weeks has been ultra-consistent and a really high level,” Cronk said.
“There’s no ceiling on what this team can achieve.”
Cronk will have to oppose likely Dally M Medal winner Johnathan Thurston and the Cowboys, which are coming off an impressive 39-0 win against the Sharks.
“They were red hot; they were probably disappointed about the opportunity they let slip against Brisbane in game one of the finals and they came out of the blocks and played at a really high intensity and they threw the football around.”
Cronk stated that the Storm will need to do more this time around if they are to hold off the Cowboys.
“It does help that we beat them three weeks ago and we’ve done a bit of homework on that, but they’ve done their homework as well.
“We’re going to have to be better than we were last time.”
Cordner shaking off Suncorp memories
The last time Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner played at Suncorp Stadium, he was playing for the New South Wales Blues which suffered a demoralising 46-point loss.
The mobile forward is looking to avenge that game with a good performance for the Roosters this Friday against the Brisbane Broncos.
“Those not-so-good memories last time I was there,” Cordner said. “I’d like to forget about that.”
“Obviously it was definitely a night to forget. It wasn’t the best of games. You do draw some motivation off it.
“It did hurt, emotionally there, for a while. You just had to put it behind you and forget about it and move on.”
Cordner believes the best way to rid of the bad memories is to go out there on Friday night and beat the Broncos in the preliminary final.
“I’m looking forward to getting up there, looking to make amends to try and wipe that bad memory,” he said.
“We’re confident. As a player, you look forward to playing in games like this. That’s why you play footy.
“Obviously it’s a bit different when you’ve got 50,000 fans booing at you than cheering for you. That’s the biggest difference. But other than that, it’s a good venue to play, it’s a great atmosphere, and I’m sure it’ll be no different on Friday night.”
Cordner isn’t shirking away from the task that awaits them, despite being favoured at $1.70 with CrownBet.com.au.
“They’ve been the benchmark of the competition and that’ll be no different. We know how massive the challenge is for us going up there. But we’re looking forward to it, and we’ll be ready,” Cordner said.
“It’s a grand final every week in the NRL. You can get beat by anyone on your day but then again it’s a semi-final and our full focus is towards that this week. Whatever happens after that happens.”
“Personally too, I’ve been pretty happy with where my footy’s at. I think I’ve been pretty consistent all year, really. But it gets highlighted a bit more when you start to win, and people start to notice you a bit more.”
Thurston ranks top in NRL ranks
North Queensland Cowboy Johnathan Thurston has ranked No.1 in the NRL’s top 50 players poll.
The likely Dally M Medal winner inspired the Cowboys to an 11-win streak this season and he rallied his troops to an enthralling 39-0 victory against the Sharks last week.
He finished the regular season with 28 try assists and 26 line-break assists – the most of any player in the NRL.
Tony Webeck of NRL.com discusses why Thurston has been ranked the best player in the game.
“The players have spoken with a fourth RLPA award and the Dally M judges are sure to soon follow suit; Johnathan Thurston is unanimously the best player in the NRL at present,” Webeck said.
“Highly skilled and blessed with an incessant competitiveness, there is no more involved player in the game with his ability to play both sides of the field separating him from most other halves. His simple act of handing the kicking tee back to the ballboys has also influenced a generation of goal-kickers. Simply the best.”
Fellow finals player Cameron Smith ranked second after playing well for not only the Melbourne Storm, but also the Queensland Origin side.
“The Melbourne, Queensland and Australian skipper is now commonly regarded as one of, if not the, best No.9s of all time,” said NRL’s Chris Kennedy.
“His ability to control the pace of a game is second to none while his durability in one of the toughest positions on the field is unbelievable. He has been central to the amazing success of all three sides he has been a fixture of over his senior career.”
NRL top 10 players:
10. Daly Cherry-Evans
9. Jesse Bromwich
8. Billy Slater
7. Shaun Johnson
6. Corey Parker
5. Paul Gallen
4. Cooper Cronk
3. Greg Inglis
2. Cameron Smith
1. Johanthan Thurston