NRL great Cronk’s Giant career move
GWS Giants have signed Cooper Cronk in the hope he can sprinkle his premiership star dust on a young team with history at their fingertips.
Cronk has been recruited as a leadership consultant to help inspire a Giants outfit determined to shake off the agony of grand final heartache and take the next step to the AFL summit in 2020.
Former teammate Billy Slater made a big impression working at St Kilda this year, and there is a belief Cronk's first foray into coaching and high performance can put the polish on the Giants' meteoric rise.
Cronk has already made contact with GWS leaders Phil Davis, Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Toby Greene and Matt de Boer and believes knowledge from four premierships, nine grand finals and 16 seasons at the top can transfer to another code.
"I am looking forward to working with the Giants and the team," Cronk said.
"During my career I was able to learn many aspects to leadership and performance which I hope to convey to assist the club in achieving its goals."
The decorated halfback, who retired after helping the Sydney Roosters secure back-to-back NRL titles this year, is in line to one day become a rugby league Immortal.
But what would separate Australian and Queensland Origin champion Cronk from even that rare company in the pantheon of greats is the fact his stunning career was defined more by hard work and diligence than God-given talent.
It's this unique feature of Cronk's career that attracted the Giants to the 35-year-old more than anything else, and there is a belief his almost unrivalled understanding of high performance can cut through in an AFL environment that sometimes doesn't look outside its four walls.
Giants coach Leon Cameron said Cronk became a priority for the club midway through this season, and was based on his consummate class on and off the field - with the premiership pedigree just an added bonus.
"Yeah that's part of it, I'm not going to sit here and lie and say it's not. It's his history. But the majority of the reason for the appointment is because of his high performance," Cameron told The Daily Telegraph.
"Whether that's in his finals preparation or from being a 17-year-old kid that moved from Queensland to the Storm and then to the Roosters to where he sits now.
"The fact he maintained that delivery of high performance at his age is phenomenal and he was playing good footy until the last game of his career, which happened to be winning a grand final.
"No doubt his experiences are part of it, but a lot of it is just how rounded he is as a person, and how he just oozes high performance.
"If that rubs off on an 18-year-old guy that we draft this year or a 33-year-old Heath Shaw that's been in the system for a long time, it's only going to be a good thing.
"We've only known Cooper for a short time, but he has great values in his life which is the most important thing, and he has this passion and enthusiasm for heading into this field of leadership - and we'd really like to be part of that."
Cronk will start at the Giants this month and will be a regular feature around the club throughout next year.
Good friend Slater has been highly rated at St Kilda for playing a similar role this year in his first season out of football, and Cronk will go down a similar path balancing Giants commitments with work at Fox League.
Giants coach Cameron has a relationship with Melbourne Storm football manager Frank Ponissi, after his team met with Craig Bellamy last year to take learnings back to GWS.
Ponissi gave Cronk his strongest possible recommendation to Cameron.
"We see how he plays, he's a leader on the field," Cameron said.
"He leads by example, he's a big moment player, he's a clutch moment player, he's played in enormous amount of grand finals, but equally off the field he's as organised as they come."