Knights mentor pitches case to Storm star
NEWCASTLE coach Nathan Brown has resigned himself to the fact Cooper Cronk will probably never wear the red and blue.
But the star halfback could still have a big impact on the fortunes of the Knights in 2018.
The Hunter club hasn't hidden its pursuit of Cronk, who will cut his contract at Melbourne short to move to Sydney after the 2017 season.
He's yet to decide whether he will sign with another club and play in the NRL again in 2018, but if he does it will be with a team based in or close to the NSW capital.
The Knights have plenty of cash to splash thanks to Brown's roster cleanout and are one of the few clubs who could afford the prized signature of the Queensland and Australian pivot.
Brown has met with Cronk and delivered his pitch for Newcastle but doesn't think the veteran halfback will land in his lap.
"The finance is not our issue there," Brown told the club website.
"The two biggest issues are; one, does Cooper want to play? He's made it quite clear that he's not sure if he wants to play, I have spoken with him.
"As much as it would be a good idea for Cooper Cronk to come to the Knights and the impact he would have on our squad, it's certainly something that I've spoken to him about and he certainly sees what we're trying to do here.
"He sees that we're starting from a long way back with the youth, and he feels that he could definitely contribute."
But even if Cronk signs a contract with a rival club in Sydney, Brown is aware it will create a domino effect that could ultimately benefit the Knights.
With most clubs pushing the NRL's salary cap, Cronk's arrival would almost certainly push a big-money player or several lesser-lights out the door and onto the open market.
Recently it's been suggested Cronulla could land Cronk's signature and the big casualty would likely be Origin playmaker James Maloney.
And if a big fish is thrown out of the boat, Brown's net will be there at the ready.
"I would guess if (Cronk) decides he is going to play, which I don't think he's sure he's going to, I would have thought it would be a Sydney club, which can have a good effect for us anyway," Brown said.
"No one has any money in Sydney so it will force a bit of movement, so Cooper playing for someone in Sydney could be great for us anyway."
The addition of a high-profile playmaker to the roster would spell bad news for veteran halfback Trent Hodkinson, who has been struggling to get a game in Newcastle's NRL side.
But Brown knows a player of Cronk's calibre at the club could be just what's needed to get the best out of young players like Brock Lamb and Jaelen Feeney.
Newcastle is said to have plenty of room to move under the salary cap, and the club has already blown their pursuits of Jack Bird, Matt Scott, and Kieran Foran.
The Knights have bought Brisbane young guns Herman Ese'ese and Tautau Moga, but will free up more money when Dane Gagai heads to South Sydney at the end of the season.