When Cooper Cronk made it known that he was keen to continue his NRL career in Sydney you would have hoped that every single Sydney based club at the very least held a meeting to discuss bringing him on board.
It isn’t often a proven premiership winner, an origin star, and one of the first named in the Australian test side comes onto the open market. Cronk has a clear preference about what city he wishes to play in and he isn’t simply looking for the most money he can get.
If you’re a Sydney club with an established halfback, you need to sit down and talk about whether or not you should chase Cooper Cronk’s signature.
The Sydney Roosters reportedly did just that, and in a move that I think its really detrimental to the clubs image, it seems they are set to move on Mitchell Pearce mid way through his contract to bring in Cronk.
As a pure footballing decision, it makes total sense. Cronk is a better player than Pearce. He is a better game manager. He may be older than Pearce but he is clearly still at the top of his game and shows no signs that he is slowing down.
A team led by Mitchell Pearce has a lot of question marks about whether or not they can get the job done when games are close and your opponent isn’t rolling over and dying in front of you. A team led by Cooper Cronk is going to be a threat against any opposition right up until the full time whistle is blown.
The thing is, what type of message does this send to current, and future Sydney Roosters players? What type of message does it send to Sydney Roosters “juniors” when they see a player who has been at the club his entire career shown the door so quickly?
In September if you had said that the Roosters would show the door to Pearce, no one would believe you. For better of worse Pearce is a cornerstone of the club. The club seemed completely committed to Pearce, and Pearce looked like he would be a one club player.
Loyalty is non existent in Rugby League, but even so, this move is cold.
Pearce would have every right to feel hard done by. He has two years left on his contract. He has stability. He had a club that he would have thought was going to back him through thick and thin….and now all of that is gone.
Pearce now finds himself in a market that is pretty much a closed shop. Most clubs have their 2018 lineups set is stone. Few have any cap space left, and few have any wiggle room to move players around to accommodate Pearce.
On top of all that you have to wonder what the market for Pearce will be. His reputation for going missing in big games would turn a lot of teams away to begin with. He won’t be a cheap pick up either, he was on good money at the Roosters and will expect to command similar money no matter where he ends up.
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any situation that Pearce could walk into that isn’t awkward, last minute, rushed, and needs a club to really bring on an issue it doesn’t really need.
The Roosters now look like a club that had stabbed one of its most established players in the back. One that is happy to bring in troubled players, stick by players with off field issues, but one that will push you out the door at the last minute if they find someone else they like.
It isn’t good look…
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Roosters were seen as a transit lounge rather than a club. A player you went, not to belong, not to be part of something, but just to get a run.
With a minute supporter base, no local juniors, and looking more like the play thing of a rich man, the Roosters had no soul.
Over the years, plenty of people tried to change that. In a strange way the Roosters found their place by aiming to be a smaller club, one that welcomed you into the fold, one you could always said you would be a part of, and one that you could go to and win games at.
I think this move really hurts all of that.
Hopefully Pearce can find a place to land without too many issues. Cronk will come in, rightly or wrongly, looking like he has blood on his hands.
For as bad as all of this looks, no one will care if Cronk leads the Roosters franchise to a premiership. Their fans will still celebrate and the players currently at the franchise will still wear the premiership rings.
Just don’t pretend it is a club any more. That experiment is over. The transit lounge is back.