VITAL: Cooper Cronk of the Roosters during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
VITAL: Cooper Cronk of the Roosters during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. CRAIG GOLDING

Roosters face tough battle if without star halfback Cronk

RUGBY LEAGUE: If Cooper Cronk can't mount a miraculous recovery to lace-up in the NRL's decider, Chris Flannery believes the Sydney Roosters will be hard-pressed to fend off the Melbourne Storm.

Cronk is currently embroiled in a race against the clock to recover from a severe rotator cuff injury and run out in Tri-Colours against the Melbourne Storm in Sunday's grand final.

It's a tough situation but it's one former Roosters utility, and Sunshine Coast Falcons CEO Chris Flannery is all too familiar with.

In 2004, Flannery faced his own uphill battle to make a grand final for the club after suffering a ruptured testicle during an NRL preliminary final.

Despite undergoing surgery in the days leading up to the decider he valiantly pushed through the pain to play his role during the battle for premiership glory against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

It was a brave effort, but Flannery believed Cronk faced an even greater hurdle to make Sunday's game and questioned whether it could be done.

"I think Cooper's injury is a bit more of a functional injury where he's not going to be able to have the power to tackle and power to pass and do what he usually does,” Flannery said.

"Whereas I just had to get through 80 minutes of more a pain factor than anything.

"He's a pretty experienced customer.

"So, knowing Cooper he won't play unless he knows he'll be able to get through the game and he doesn't want the Roosters to go into a grand final with only 16 players at the end of the day so I'm sure he'll make the right decision.

"But, I'm highly doubtful that he's going to get out there and if he does I'll doubt he'll be able to last the game so I'll see what happens.”

Flannery believed being without the services of Cronk would cruel the Sydney club's hopes of victory.

"If I was going to put some money on the game I'd probably put it on Melbourne Storm to win,” he said.

"I just think now that Billy (Slater) is playing that they're probably the stronger of the two teams (if Cronk doesn't play).

"I'll be cheering for the Chooks but I think the Storm will be too strong if Cooper doesn't play.”

Although a proud Rooster, Flannery admitted he would also be barracking for the Storm.

”It's a bit of a funny one for me and my loyalties are a little torn with our (Falcons) close association with the Melbourne Storm and having a few guys that have played for Falcons playing for the club this weekend,” Flannery said.

While Cronk was key, Flannery still believed the Roosters had plenty of firepower.

"Boyd Cordner is probably the premier second rower in the competition at the moment and he has high work rates and his overall toughness and leadership makes him a great player,” he said.

"I think the Storm are going to have to keep an eye on him but probably the biggest danger for the Storm is Latrell Mitchell.

"He's had a week off so he's going to be coming into the game pretty fresh and he's just a hard player to contain.”



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