Cool-hand Cronk plays down feat
IT seems ludicrous now.
Cooper Cronk will receive a rare honour tonight when he becomes just the 27th player to be awarded the Dick "Tosser" Turner Medal for making his 20th Origin appearance.
But there was a time the Maroons maestro thought he would never get the chance to play for Queensland.
With Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston holding mortgages over Queensland's halves spots, Cronk's Origin future was far from destined.
Not that he thought it should be any different.
"I never thought anything like this was possible. I was more the kid that crossed every toe and finger and hair follicle they had and hoped it was possible, not knew it was," Cronk said.
That single statement tells you almost everything about Cronk.
The humble Storm half has racked up almost every award in the game.
Golden Boot winner, two-time Dally M Medallist, premiership winner, Origin and Kangaroos representative.
But you won't hear him crowing.
The "Tosser" Turner Medal is one of Queensland's most prestigious awards.
Named after the legendary former Maroons team man-ager and awarded to players who have represented Queensland 20 or more times, the list of recipients reads like a who's who of the sport.
And while Cronk will be humbled to join their number, he believes his achievements should take a back seat to Cameron Smith this week, as the Maroons captain prepares to play a record 40th Origin match.
"I don't want to play it up because it pales into insignificance to what Cameron Smith's about to do," Cronk said.
"But I'm happy to say thank you and I very much appreciate every player and staff member that's played a part in me playing those 20 games because to be honest, it's 20 of the most memorable games I've ever had in my career."
Cronk made his debut in the first game of the 2010 series, midway through Queensland's decade of dominance.
Now, he's Queensland's ice man and will be the calm head that helps guide Anth-ony Milford through his Origin debut tonight.
While it took a while to get there, he said the wait was a blessing for his game.
"At a few stages there, I probably never thought one (game) was possible, but I'm grateful for it and probably it was a blessing in disguise really," he said.
With Cronk's career in limbo given he has not yet decided whether to play on past 2017, he is well aware this could be his Origin swansong. And he's at peace with that.
"If it stopped tomorrow, I'd be a happy man," he said.
"I haven't really thought about it being my last series and I won't know that until this series is passed.
"I play each game on its merits and have a bit of fun and give everything I've got and that won't change whether it's my last one or a few to go."