Roosters well equipped for post-Cronk era

Scott Bailey
Retired halfback Cooper Cronk says the Sydney Roosters' NRL title defence is in safe hands

Cooper Cronk has revealed he loosened his reins at the Sydney Roosters last year in a conscious bid to help Luke Keary and James Tedesco plan for life without him in 2020.

The Roosters will begin life without Cronk on Saturday night against Penrith, with Keary to take more command at five-eighth and Kyle Flanagan the halfback.

Cronk's impact at the Roosters is immeasurable.

He took the club to successive premierships at halfback as the Roosters emulated Brisbane's back-to-back wins in 1992 and 1993.

But he is certain Keary is ready to take up the role, with the Roosters favourites to become the first team to pull off a three-peat since Parramatta between 1981 and 1983.

"There's no doubt (he's ready to step up)," Cronk told AAP.

"Towards the back end of 2019 we were both playing pretty high, but I was able to let him go.

"He was rocking and rolling and there was no point me getting in the road of that.

"Those guys (Keary and Tedesco) needed to have ownership and put their foot forward and dominate.

"So as a leader and a guy helping out, you help them along that way."

Keary's game developed significantly alongside Cronk.

The 28-year-old is the frontrunner to take James Maloney's vacant No.6 jersey at NSW and he spoke at length of Cronk's influence late last year.

However his best moments have come with him in control of the team, notably in the 2018 grand final where he was Clive Churchill medallist as Cronk played with an injured arm.

"He is in the peak of his powers because he is at that age where he understands rugby league now," Cronk said.

"When he does something he knows why it worked or why it didn't. He can go back and compute."

Cronk is also confident that Flanagan's lack of game time at Cronulla last year won't be an issue.

The 21-year-old played 14 games across the NRL and NSW Cup last year, often missing reserve grade games while away as 18th man for the top team.

He has nine NRL games to his name since his debut in late 2018, making him the least experienced of any first-choice halfback this season.

Cronk has worked with Flanagan throughout the summer, noting his temperament and "thirst for work" as signs he will succeed.

"That's not a concern at all," Cronk said.

"The Roosters didn't recruit Kyle Flanagan because of his nine games at Cronulla. They didn't recruit him because his body may have been fresh as 18th man.

"They recruited him on his personality and his ability, and what they saw in those nine games and through his junior career.

"The ability for Kyle to understand the Roosters' strengths and also understand the Roosters' style and DNA is probably where Trent and Nick see the parallels."