Roosters perfect for young Suaalii: Cronk

·3-min read

Cooper Cronk need to look no further than the way the Sydney Roosters treated a young Latrell Mitchell for proof they can protect Joseph Suaalii.

Suaalii is still not old enough to drink in a bar for another six months, but remains the name on everyone's lips ahead of the NRL season after his defection from South Sydney.

The 17-year-old's senior debut was pushed back a week on Thursday, when the Roosters opted not to name him in Saturday's NSW Cup trial.

But it seems inevitable the in-demand cross-code star will play first grade soon.

The Roosters are putting the final touches on their application to allow Suaalii to play NRL before his 18th birthday in August.

And Cronk, who is back helping at Roosters training, believes they are the right club to help Suaalii deal with any extra pressures.

He saw first hand how Trent Robinson treated Mitchell in the years after his debut at 18, at times letting him miss games of football to return home to Taree.

"One thing that goes in the Roosters' favour is they had Latrell Mitchell five years ago and it was very similar," Cronk said.

"They did some things for Latrell that not many clubs would do. They allowed him to go home at stages and find his way through.

"Football coaches and clubs aren't just about winning games of footy.

"They're about creating good men and turning boys into men that their parents and fans can be proud of.

"That's part of the Roosters and they don't take that responsibility lightly. I've been around it. The Melbourne Storm do it well, too."

On the field, Cronk has no doubt Suaalii is ready.

It's unlikely he'll start immediately given the experience and strength in the Roosters' backs, but he would be one of their next options.

"He can do it all physically but his greatest asset is his personality. He's humble, respectful and well-mannered," Cronk said.

"When you've got that in a 17-year-old who absorbs and understands information and respects the Roosters' way, you can teach all the stuff that takes time to learn.

"I know there's a lot of conjecture about it. Is he ready? I don't think an age is a barrier for someone to do something."

Meanwhile Cronk also backed 22-year-old Lachlan Lam's Roosters expertise to help him get first crack alongside Luke Keary in the halves this year.

Lam has played 11 games since making his debut in 2019, but unlike Kyle Flanagan in 2020 has the advantage of being in the Roosters' system for nine years.

"Lachlan has played with Victor Radley since he was knee-high to a grasshopper," Cronk said.

"Him and James Tedesco live near each other and are tight. He's been in the junior system the whole way.

"He's a Rooster and understands all that. It's his time to play.

"Guys like Luke Keary and James Tedesco ... They'll drive that team, along with Jake Friend, and allow the likes of Lachlan Lam to do their thing."