Cooper Cronk hits the deck during the preliminary final between the Roosters and Rabbitohs. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Cooper Cronk hits the deck during the preliminary final between the Roosters and Rabbitohs. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Cronk expecting Bunnies’ ‘freight train’ treatment

COOPER Cronk won't be raising the white flag when big Sam Burgess lines up to smash him on Friday night.

Instead, the Sydney Roosters star playmaker has offered his blessings to Sam and the rampaging South Sydney pack to come after him "with a freight train" in what promises to be the next enthralling chapter of rugby league's oldest feud.

Preparing for his NRL return after last year's heroic grand final performance where he played with a busted shoulder, Cronk didn't need to be reminded this week that the injury was actually the result of a run-in with the Rabbitohs' enforcer in the preliminary final.

But after making his comeback in the Roosters' World Club Challenge victory over Wigan in England, the 35-year-old said he won't be asking the Rabibtohs for any favours.

What's more, he doesn't expect to get any.

"Well, Sam has given me a shirt-full of sore ribs for a long period of time now so I am expecting exactly the same," Cronk said.

Cronk hurt his shoulder in the prelim win over the Rabbitohs. Picture by Phil Hillyard.
Cronk hurt his shoulder in the prelim win over the Rabbitohs. Picture by Phil Hillyard.

"Look, there is a few things going against me. He is probably five foot taller than me and another 40 kilograms heavier than me so I know not to get caught up in too much.

"But at the end of the day I do my job, he does his, and I will never shirk my responsibility.

"He can hit me with a freight train and I will still get up hopefully and be able to play my role."

Asked if he was expecting much of the same at the SCG, Cronk continued the banter:

"Well, it is not my first rodeo. I know exactly what is about to happen. I love it," he said.

"It gets me out of bed most mornings to physically test myself and compete against the best."

With the Rabbitohs' help, Cronk wrote his name in rugby league folklore with that grand final performance coach Trent Robinson described as one of the bravest in the game's history.

But Cronk was adamant his left shoulder has since fully recovered, and now is not the time to be looking back.

Cronk is yet to decide if he will continue in the NRL beyond this season.

Cronk showed incredible toughness to play in the decider. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.
Cronk showed incredible toughness to play in the decider. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.

But he knows the history of bad blood between these two clubs is going to spark another memorable encounter, and the NRL deserves credit for scheduling this round one derby.

"One of the first things I did before coming here was read the Centenary Book of the Roosters," he said.

"The NRL cop a whack every now and then for some of their decisions. But let's give them a pat on the back for putting Souths versus the Roosters at the SCG in Friday night football in round one.

"I think that is a really good decision. It is up to the players to go out and play their bit.

"At the end of the day I am not the first person to have played with an injury and get through a game.

"Hopefully we don't have this conversation again. I would like to be able to play games of football without a broken bone but we will see how we go."

The 35-year old is expecting a heavy reception from the Rabbitohs. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.
The 35-year old is expecting a heavy reception from the Rabbitohs. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.

Cronk said he expected rival teams to continue to target his left shoulder all season.

"They will and they have every right to do so," he said.

"But I have every right to stand there and get back up and try and do as best I possibly can.

"It has been a part of rugby league for over 110 years.

"You try and target someone who is injured.

"But as long as you are willing to go on and play that game of football then it is probably a free target.

"On Friday night or for the rest of the season, I am not going to sit back and just get myself beaten up. I can't fight, that is number one.

"But at least I am going to get out there and have a red-hot crack and do my absolute best to obviously try and do my role for the team."