Smith says chat won't bother Cronk - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Smith says chat won't bother Cronk

By Melissa Woods 30/09/2008 03:48:10 PM Comments (0)

Suspended skipper Cameron Smith warned Manly to target Storm halfback Cooper Cronk at their own peril in Sunday's NRL grand final.

The Sea Eagles are reportedly planning to verbally attack Cronk, who has replaced Smith in the captaincy role, in the hope of unsettling the No.7.

With Smith's replacement, Russell Aitken, very inexperienced at hooker, the Sea Eagles see Cronk as the Storm's main playmaker and hope to put him under extra pressure.

They believed the game plan had some success in the teams' last meeting, in round 22, which Melbourne won 16-10.

But Smith remembers the game differently and believes Cronk will remain as focused as ever.

"Manly have come out and said they put him off his game last time we played them, but I find that a little bit strange," Smith said.

"I thought he was probably one of the best players on the paddock last time.

"He scored a try himself and set one up for us and I thought he was close to man of the match."

Cronk appeared to relish the extra responsibility of captaining the Storm and steered the side around the park with aplomb.

Smith said the halfback, who has played two Tests for the Kangaroos, was a leader with or without the captaincy.

"He's a leader on the field every time he goes out there without having a `c' next to his name.

"I didn't think he did too much different to what he does every other week. Obviously he tossed the coin and led the boys out but Coops is a natural leader."

He said Cronk reminded him of himself a few years ago, with his ability to fire up on the field, but Smith had become more of a "calming effect" on his team.

"He's probably a lot more angrier than I am," Smith said when asked about their captaincy styles.

"Craig (Bellamy) asked me to change my ways a little bit a few years ago and that's what I had to fix but Coops has sort of taken over that role now where he's the angry man on the field and I'm sort of the calming effect on the team.

"When we're both out there it balances out but he has to juggle that now, being out there by himself."

There were question marks about how the Storm would perform without their leader, who has a massive impact each game in both attack and defence.

But Smith said he was always confident the team would succeed in his absence, and that Aitken could handle the role.

Aitken, a former Australian schoolboy star, gave good service at dummy-half and replicated Smith's usual tackle tally, making 37 which was only topped in the side by tackling machine Dallas Johnson.

"I was always confident they were going to have a strong game," Smith said.

"Obviously people were asking me whether Russell Aitken was up to the job.

"I always believed Russ was good enough. I've had big wraps on him ever since he's come to our club."

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