He got Mal Meninga’s seal of approval as the Maroons No.7 during the week and today Cooper Cronk set about winning over Queensland fans with a silky display as Melbourne beat Gold Coast 30-6 at Skilled Park.
The 11,254 rain-sodden fans who braved a miserable Gold Coast afternoon may not have been too excited by the halfback’s display today, but come May they’ll be hoping for more of the same when he joins Queensland’s new-look halves combination.
With Johnathan Thurston assuming Darren Lockyer’s No.6 jersey, Cronk comes into halfback after a lengthy apprenticeship on the bench for the Maroons.
Tonight, he looked ready.
His deft cross-kick in the third minute put winger Matt Duffie in for his first of two tries for the night, and when he snuck between Titans forwards Ben Ridge and Greg Bird to send Sika Manu over in the 52nd minute, the writing was on the wall for the home side.
Cronk’s State of Origin accomplices Billy Slater and Cameron Smith were also in delightful touch.
The fullback’s 72nd-minute effort should feature on highlight packages for the rest of the weekend after he snatched a cheeky Smith chip kick out of the air and grounded with millimetres to spare at the back of the in-goal.
If not for that try, his first would have been the highlight of the night after a series of short passes in the ruck by Smith and Cronk sent Slater on a 50m run to the tryline.
Slater, who now has six tries in three games, also threw a delightful pass for Duffie’s second try and he patrolled the backfield effortlessly despite the greasy conditions.
The Storm remain unbeaten at the top of the NRL table, while the Titans now have just one win after three rounds of the new season.
It didn’t take long for the Storm to put the home side on the back foot, with a Cronk chip kick in behind Titans winger Steve Michaels sitting up perfectly for Duffie to cross in the right corner in the third minute.
But with the great equaliser, the weather, making itself felt, the Gold Coast toed the line in an arm wrestle that played out for the rest of the half.
The visitors’ promising raids down the right flank were turned back on each occasion and the Titans counterpunched well in passages of end-to-end football.
In the 22nd minute it looked as if the ledger may have been squared when reserve forward Matthew White dived on a Matt Srama kick that had pin-balled around the Storm in-goal.
The front-rower was denied a rare four-pointer on video review and the Titans went to the sheds down 4-0.
The Titans hinted at a comeback in the 60th minute when Michaels crossed in the corner and Scott Prince brought the crowd to its feet with his sideline conversion.
However, Slater’s try from halfway five minutes later took the wind out of the home side’s sails and Melbourne didn’t let their grip on the match slip again.
Winger Anthony Quinn rubbed salt into the wounds with the visitors’ sixth try with five minutes left on the clock.
MELBOURNE 30 (M Duffie 2 B Slater 2 S Manu A Quinn tries C Smith 2 G Widdop goals) bt GOLD COAST 6 (S Michaels try S Prince goal) at Skilled Park. Referee: Jason Robinson, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 11,254.