Cronk, Smith have never been in ‘a better position’
Read into this what you will, but Cooper Cronk claims his relationship with Cameron Smith has never been in "a better position".
But while speaking glowingly about Smith's contribution to rugby league - as well as the considerable influence the Melbourne captain has had on Cronk's individual career - when asked where their "personal" relationship now stood, Cronk's answer was short and sweet.
"As a footy player I respect him immensely," Cronk told The Daily Telegraph.
Once again highlighting Cronk's class on and off the field, the champion playmaker again refused to be drawn into the debate about the much publicised breakdown of their friendship in the wake of the Sydney Roosters' thrilling golden point victory.
"From my position I don't think we have ever been in a better position," Cronk said.
"It is the way it is. I respect him as a footy player.
"He has contributed to my career, the things that I have achieved, more than most.
"And the thing he has done for rugby league in general I tip my hat to him, because he is about to break a record that no one has ever considered breaking before in playing 400 games.
"The guy is an ornament to the game."
Cronk then simply reiterated the respect he had for Smith "as a footy player" when asked about their friendship.
After their infamous run-in in last year's grand final where the injured Cronk held a smiling Smith by the throat after a late charge down, Smith made another obvious attempt to rattle his former teammate during Friday night's fiery clash in Melbourne.
Cronk claimed he had no recollection of the cannonball-style tackle he copped with just over five minutes of regular time remaining.
Dale Finucane and Kenny Bromwich had Cronk held when Smith came charging at the defenceless Cronk's legs.
Cronk appeared to take a quick look in Smith's direction but instead of reacting he just got on with winning the game, hatching a plan with Latrell Mitchell during the break before extra time to use Cronk as the decoy that opened the opportunity for Mitchell to snap a 40m field goal to break the deadlock.
"Last time we played in Adelaide I didn't even get the ball on my foot and I had five people on pressure," Cronk said.
"I think most teams realise I am the main kicker and going into that I didn't even get one shot off in regulation time.
"So I just had a chat to Latrell (before golden point) and said 'are you right to kick this?' And he goes, 'yeah, absolutely'.
"I said, 'look, this is what we are going to do. I will stand out far right so they come to me and that way it should give you some time'."
Cronk said he was also "fine" with the ugly reception from Melbourne fans who booed him during the match.
"As long as it doesn't cross the lines of sort of degrading tones, racism, religious and all those kind of things, than it is fair," Cronk said.
"The boos and the cheers, I am all for it.
"People pay their hard earned to go and support their teams and if they want to go and do that I think it is fair."