Rugby League


Cronk could be a benchmark for promising McCrone

Raiders playmaker Josh McCrone can emulate Queensland star Cooper Cronk and ease his way into the Origin cauldron from the bench, according to Canberra prop David Shillington.

Storm halfback Cronk filled the Maroons utility bench role for several years, serving an apprenticeship behind first-choice halves Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston.

Thrust into the starting No. 7 jersey last year after Lockyer's retirement, Cronk slotted a long-range field goal in the series decider to hand Queensland its seventh straight series win.

Shillington, a Queensland mainstay for the past three years, has witnessed Cronk benefit hugely from getting a taste of Origin, without the added pressure of being the chief playmaker.

McCrone and Raiders teammates Josh Dugan, Shaun Fensom and Blake Ferguson were part of a three-day Emerging Blues camp that wrapped up at Coogee on Sunday.

The 25-year-old faces stiff opposition for the Blues' No. 14 role, with Adam and Josh Reynolds also included in the camp, and Blues regular Kurt Gidley on the comeback trail from shoulder surgery.


"Queensland had Cooper Cronk there [on the bench] for all those years and he was so invaluable to us,'' Shillington said.

"Maybe [new NSW coach] Laurie Daley will take a look at that and put Joshy there.

"When you get picked for Origin, unfortunately it's sink or swim. You get thrown in the deep end and if you come up swimming you stay, if you don't you don't play again, usually.

"It would be nice for Josh to have an easier transition by playing off the bench and learning through Origin camps.

"Cooper had that privilege with JT and Locky in front of him, and last year he really stepped up.

The Blues have used a multitude of different halves in recent times, but are expected to stick with Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney after blooding their combination last year.

Daley has already shown he believes McCrone is suited to the dummy-half bench role after rushing him into Country camp after Danny Buderus withdrew last year.

"Even Queensland thinking about picking someone like [Canterbury fullback] Benny Barba, who they can't find a role for at the moment, it just feels not right having him in there,'' Shillington said.

"If you put him [McCrone] in at the 30th or 60th-minute mark, he could wreak havoc.

"There could be 20 minutes where Josh could go into dummy-half and put their big second rowers and front rowers through gaps.''

McCrone, admitted his feared his Origin chance had already passed him by after the spectacular emergence of Josh and Adam Reynolds with Canterbury and South Sydney last year.

"It's probably not something I expected [to be invited to Emerging Blues camp] this year, I heard there was going to be a few changes including both Reynolds boys,'' he said.

"I thought my time might have been up and time for it to be someone else's go for a while, so it's pretty exciting.

"[Before Country] I hadn't really played hooker since I was 15 or 16.''