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THERE WERE AIR FRESHENERS AROUND

We lived together in Richmond in the early days. Billy Slater was with us. It was great, a fun house. We looked after each other. There’s a lot of stories about Cooper heading off to Richmond markets for the freshest ginseng, and all that. But he wasn’t like that when we were living together. That said, when my girlfriend Melissa – now my wife – would come around, she was much more comfortable coming over to visit once Cooper moved in. The food was a lot nicer. It was really neat. There were air fresheners around.

 

I roomed with Coops on tour for seven or eight years. He was tidy, I was a bit messy. But the relationship was so close. If I was snoring – which I had a habit of – he got so used to it, he’d just say middle of the night, “Hoffy” – and I’d know to turn over. I wouldn’t remember it.

 

He’s always wanted to work out what worked for him. But he went through a period where he was a bit extreme with his diet. He was so strict he wasn’t socialising. It was curtailing his ability to go to a mate’s place for dinner. And he worked out that that life wasn’t for him. He decided that he could scale it back. Again, it shows how professional he is. He was smart enough to work out something may have been working physically but not emotionally.

 

There was a time when all of his mates – myself, Cameron, Bill – all got married. And started having kids. He was still living by himself. And he could try all that stuff. So he wasn’t restricted. But he was also lonely.

 

When he found such a great woman in Tara, he realised that just being a footy player wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be happy as well. And if that meant moving to Sydney to be with her, he’d do it. I’ve never seen him happier. As a friend, I couldn’t wish anything more from him.

 

 

 

IT’S COOPER CRONK – GREAT PERSON

Everyone comes to maturity in their own time. But Coops has always been a learner. And he’s worked things out. He tried things. For instance, we all struggled through the 2010 season playing for no points. Coops used it as an opportunity to try things a bit differently.

 

I’ve learned a lot from him. Certainly how to be humble. He doesn’t have tickets on himself; he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s always got time for other people; he’ll go out of his way to break the rugby league stereotype. It’s his great mission in league – he’s always wanted to prove to people that we’re not just footballers. There are layers to people. You’re a person first. He doesn’t want to be known as Cooper Cronk – great footballer. It’s Cooper Cronk - great person.

 

He treats everyone as equals. No matter their status at the footy club or in society. Treated everyone how he wanted to be. And his loyalty and passion to work for others? It left a huge impression on me. What more could you ask for in a friend?

 

 

NOTHING CAME NATURALLY TO HIM

There are people who think post-footy he’s a natural for administration. Even CEO!  I think he’d be wasted. His experience and skillset, his knowledge of what it takes to be a halfback is incredible. Put it this way: if I was an NRL coach, I’d be sending my young halves to him like Bellyache sent Cooper to Matty Johns.

 

Nothing came naturally to Cooper. So he knows what it’s like to develop yourself into a player. He knows how to teach, educate, because he did that to himself.  I’d love to see him as a specialist halves coach. I’d like to see all 16 NRL clubs send their best young blokes to him to learn how to play and what it takes to be a halfback in the NRL. It’s not how fast you are. Not how talented. It’s what to do when. No-one knows that better than Cooper Cronk. He’d be a great educator.

 

I think the way the game is heading, NRL clubs will have position-specific coaches. Specialists. He can verbalise what’s required. For that same reason he’ll do well in the media. He gets his point across well.

 

I wasn’t surprised he made the decision to retire. He’s happy with where his life is. Ready to move on to the next phase. I’ve known him for 17 years. Seen him at his best and his worst, and never seen him happier than with Tara and Lenny. He’s ready to stop being an NRL player. I’m really happy that he was able to make the decision on his own terms.

 

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