Cronk sidles up to referees ahead of Eels showdown

Cooper Cronk of the Storm thanks fans after the round 26 clash with Canberra.
Cooper Cronk of the Storm thanks fans after the round 26 clash with Canberra. JOE CASTRO

MELBOURNE Storm superstar Cooper Cronk has endorsed the mind games being played before Saturday's crunch qualifying final against Parramatta.

But unlike opposing coaches Brad Arthur and Craig Bellamy, who fired shots across each other's bows at the weekend, Cronk, 34, chose to butter up the referees.

"It's fair game isn't it, in terms of adding a bit of spice and bit of drama around it all, but at the end of the day whether Brad says something or Craig says something in return of serve, the officials do a tremendous job and they'll do it again on Saturday afternoon," he said.

"It's up to the players to go out and try and test the boundaries and do it but I've got absolute faith if either team steps over the edge the referees will take care of it.

"At the end of the day it won't come down to those tactics, it will come down to the execution of the players doing what they need to do for their team to win on Saturday."

Arthur went down an all too familiar path last Friday night, warning the referees to be on the lookout for Storm wrestling and trying to slow the play-the-ball.

Bellamy teed off the following day, calling on the referees to clamp down on the Eels, who "go to sleep" on opposition players deep in their own territory.

But Cronk wouldn't fuel the flames.

"I think every team does it and the question is because it's finals does it get more airtime to try and influence certain people," statesman Cronk said.

"Look, it's all gamesmanship as far as I'm concerned, but that won't play a part come game day, come kick-off."

Cronk still doesn't know what he plans to do next year, willing to wait until the end of the finals series and potentially the Rugby League World Cup to decide.

"It's obviously exciting times and that's why you play football, you never take for granted opportunities to play in finals because at the end of the day the thing about finals is that it tests you mentally, it tests you physically," Cronk said.

"The best teams are left in the competition and you fight off for a trophy and honestly that's the pinnacle of any professional sport.

"While there's probably a few more people in the stands, a bit more attention on the games, it's just basically doing what you've done all year, do it a little bit faster, do it a little bit stronger and do it for a little bit longer than the opposition."

Before training on Tuesday morning, Storm players gathered around a #Cam356 hashtag stamped on Gosch's Paddock to commemorate Cameron Smith's historic games record.

The inspirational captain equalled Brisbane Broncos legend Darren Lockyer last week.

Topics:  cooper cronk melbourne storm nrl finals

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