‘It’s all smoke and mirrors’: Former Rooster backs Cronk to play
WILL he or won't he?
The guessing game over Cooper Cronk has intensified after the injured halfback was included in the Sydney Roosters' trimmed 19-strong squad for the NRL grand final despite being a spectator at Saturday's captain's run.
In the unfamiliar No.23 jersey, Cronk has made the latest squad cut on the extended bench with veteran utility Mitchell Aubusson still named at halfback but back-up No.7 Sean O'Sullivan has been cut.
Adding to the intrigue, Cronk's much talked about left shoulder was reportedly assessed in a secret private fitness session ahead of Sunday's decider against former club Melbourne.
However, it remains to be seen if Cronk overcomes a severe rotator cuff tear with the Roosters to give a final verdict an hour before kickoff on Sunday.
The Roosters were expected to put Cronk through his paces at a closed captain's run at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
But it is believed the former Test No.7 instead took part in a private session with a trainer in North Sydney, completing one-on-one drills away from his teammates earlier on Saturday.
Cronk was spotted by Fox Sports taking part in a range of tests with a Roosters trainer in Neutral Bay, near the halfback's home.
Television helicopters then hovered over Allianz Stadium to catch a glimpse of Cronk in action but the prized Storm recruit took no part in the Roosters' final training run.
With O'Sullivan failing to make the 19-strong squad cut, Victor Radley or Ryan Matterson are now considered the best chances to slot into the halves with Luke Keary if Cronk loses his fitness battle.
Roosters great Craig Wing tipped self proclaimed "long shot" Cronk to play against his former club with help from painkilling injections.
"I think Cooper Cronk's sore shoulder is all smoke and mirrors and he is 100 per cent," he said.
"It will mean getting some painkilling injections which can work wonders.
"It is probably not the best thing for long-term health but ...I will guarantee 100 per cent of players would say it is worth it."
Storm assistant Adam O'Brien expected Cronk to play although he seemed tired of the constant speculation.
"I have chopped and changed all week but I think he will," he said.
"But we have a plan in place if he does play and one if he doesn't - we have probably stopped worrying about it." Aubusson has been named to start at halfback for the first time in his career for the decider.
But Radley is believed to loom large in the Roosters' pre-game plans.
There is speculation the hard hitting Radley will either be used as Cronk's bodyguard in defence on Sunday or will shift from lock to five-eighth, with pivot Keary moving to No.7 against Melbourne if the playmaker is ruled out.