BEST OF ENEMIES: COOPER CRONK

In 332 NRL games, there’s not a club that champion halfback Cooper Cronk hasn’t tormented on a regular basis. Cronk crafted a winning record against all 15 other clubs during a decorated 14-season stay with Melbourne, but it may come as a surprise that his career winning percentage against the underachieving Warriors is his third-worst, after regular heavyweights Manly and Canterbury. Can he improve on those stats and put a forgettable first outing against the Warriors in Sydney Roosters behind him this weekend?

COOPER CRONK – CAREER RECORD v WARRIORS
Melbourne (2005-17): 27 games (won 16, lost 10, drew 1) – 6 tries, 1 field goal (25 points)
Sydney Roosters (2018): 1 game (lost 1) – 0 points
CAREER TOTAL: 28 games (won 16, lost 11, drew 1) – 6 tries, 1 field goal (25 points)

Cronk emerged on the NRL scene as a fresh-faced Melbourne utility and scored a try in his first match against the Warriors in 2005, starting at five-eighth for the injured Scott Hill in a 24-16 loss. He deputised in the No.6 again later that season in a 22-10 Storm victory.

With Matt Orford departing at the end of ’05, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy threw the No.7 keys to Cronk in one of the most inspired selection gambles of all time. Cronk made just the second halfback start of his career in the Storm’s opening-round win over the Warriors at Mount Smart in 2006.

A grand final winner and Test halfback a little over 18 months later, Cronk featured in three straight wins over the Warriors in 2007-08 but suffered consecutive defeats to the Auckland-based club in the latter campaign – including a famous qualifying final boilover at Olympic Park.

Cronk was man of the match as the embattled Storm pummelled the Warriors 40-6 just days after the club’s salary-cap scandal broke in 2010, laying on four tries in a master-class.

He ended a 12-game try drought against the Warriors in the corresponding Anzac Day showdown in 2011, but the Storm were edged 18-14 at AAMI Park.

Cronk picked up two Dally M points in Melbourne’s 16-8 mid-season success, but he was outgunned by Shaun Johnson in a gut-wrenching preliminary final loss in the 2011 post-season, bamboozled by the Warriors rookie’s cross-field jaunt to send Lewis Brown over for the match-sealer.

The Dally M Medal winner in 2012 – picking up two points in an away win over the Warriors – Cronk was again a try-scorer in a losing effort when the clubs met in 2013, starting and finishing a 70-metre movement in a Mount Smart thriller.

That 30-22 defeat marked the beginning of a run of three Storm losses in four games against the Warriors to the end of 2015, while Cronk also endured three Test losses for Australia to the Johnson-inspired Kiwis during that time.

But there was plenty for Cronk to smile about in four straight wins over the Warriors in 2016-17, kicking a field goal in a hard-fought 21-14 success in Auckland before scoring tries in three subsequent victories.

The marquee signing was expected to lead Sydney Roosters to a comfortable win over a Johnson-less Warriors at Allianz Stadium in Round 4 this year, but he was comprehensively outplayed by unfancied stand-in Mason Lino in a crushing 30-6 loss.

Cronk’s tally of 28 appearances against the Warriors is his second-highest, playing against only Brisbane (29) more times.

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