Is this as close as Cronk will get to the trophy? (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Is this as close as Cronk will get to the trophy? (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Hodges: Chooks can’t win without Cronk

ROOSTERS premiership winner Justin Hodges has declared the Chooks can't win Sunday's NRL grand final without Cooper Cronk.

D-Day is approaching for Cronk who will undergo a fitness test on his injured shoulder at Saturday's final training session before the premiership decider against Melbourne.

The Roosters are willing to give Cronk until 6.30pm on Sunday to prove his fitness, however it will be clear then whether the Sydney halfback is any chance of overcoming a "severe" rotator cuff injury.

 

Cronk, 34, is yet to train with his teammates this week, instead undergoing around-the-clock rehabilitation in a desperate bid to face former club Melbourne.

Former Broncos captain Hodges played in the Roosters' 2002 premiership-winning team during his three-year stint away from Brisbane.

And the ex-Queensland and Kangaroos centre said the Roosters were no hope of beating the Storm, who have been boosted by the availability of star fullback Billy Slater, if Cronk succumb to the injury.

 

The Roosters are leaving nothing to chance. (Matt King/Getty Images)
The Roosters are leaving nothing to chance. (Matt King/Getty Images)

 

"No one wants to miss a grand final and to be honest the Roosters need him to even have a chance against the Melbourne Storm," Hodges said.

"Having gone through the same stuff with my rotator cuff (in 2008), it's a very painful injury where you can't pick up anything. Every time you hit it, it makes it worse.

"You can't do weights or lift things. You can barely drive a car because that sudden movement really hurts it.

"He couldn't even kick the ball. Just holding the ball and trying to swing his leg hurt. It's really uncomfortable. Sometimes the easiest things you can't do.

"Knowing Coops he will work around the clock and do everything he needs to do to make sure he's out there, but it's painful."

 

Will Mitch Aubusson be Cronk’s stand-in? (Matt King/Getty Images)
Will Mitch Aubusson be Cronk’s stand-in? (Matt King/Getty Images)

 

The specifics of Cronk's injury have not been made public as the Roosters attempt to keep Melbourne guessing ahead of the ANZ Stadium decider.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson named backrower-centre Mitchell Aubusson in the No. 7 jersey and put Cronk on an extended bench in No. 23.

Broncos-bound rookie Sean O'Sullivan is in the mix to replace Cronk, while Robinson could also shift Luke Keary to halfback and slot Ryan Matterson into five-eighth.

But former Kangaroos pivot Wally Lewis said he wasn't convinced Cronk would miss the decider given his history of overcoming injuries.

"I'm going to take some convincing that Cooper won't play," Lewis said. "It's the last game of the year and he's got some time to get well after it.

"His only concern will be whether it will be a bit of baggage for some teammates.

"He's carried more than a single injury around. While this might be a lot more serious, he is one of those blokes that will be striving for the best."

 

How much is Cronk willing to risk? (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
How much is Cronk willing to risk? (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cronk was a defensive liability in the second half of Roosters' preliminary final win against South Sydney, but the Rabbitohs failed to properly expose his injury.

Having played 323 NRL games for Melbourne, the Storm know Cronk's game inside-out and will target him more efficiently, according to Maroons coach Kevin Walters.

"It's important his shoulders are working, especially against the Storm," said Walters, a former Melbourne assistant.

"He said he's only got to get to 80 per cent fit and he'll be right.

"Anything shorter than that, I don't think he'll play. He's smart enough to understand and he knows his body and what he can put it through."