NRL 2024: Mitchell Pearce and Cooper Cronk, Roosters 2017, Matty Johns Podcast, phone call, what happened, Knights

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NRL premiership-winning halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Cooper Cronk have revealed how their infamous saga at the Roosters went down at the back end of 2017.

The Roosters stunned the rugby league world when they landed the prized signature of Cronk, who most thought was retiring after winning the 2017 grand final with Melbourne.

It left Pearce out in the cold just four years after he’d guided the Chooks to a drought-breaking title, and within a few weeks he’d left for Newcastle.

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Pearce was seething at the time but the tough call was proved the right one, with Cronk delivering the Roosters back-to-back premierships in 2018 and 2019.

Pearce spent four years at the Knights before joining the Catalans Dragons in the Super League for the final two years of his career which ended in 2023.

Cronk and Pearce both appeared on the Matty Johns Podcast this week and the host quizzed both the retired players on how things went down back in 2017.

“We finished the season and it was in the papers and came up,” Pearce said.

“But look I got replaced by a much better halfback and a winner and I can admit that, it was hard to say that at the time.

“They went on to win two competitions and I’d fallen short so I totally understand the situation (now).”

Cronk’s first move at the time was to speak to Pearce and clear the air, but that wasn’t the only Roosters player he called.

“I remember the first thing I did, I spoke to Pearcy on the phone. I also spoke to Jared, Aubo, Friend, Keary, I spoke to everyone it had to be relationship based as opposed to a business decision… it was difficult,” Cronk said.

“The other thing too, looking back on it, there was a little bit of success at the back end but on Anzac Day in that first year we got pumped and I think we were 4-4. So it wasn’t all positive to start with.

“I just remember it had to be relationship-based, like (Pearce is) an elite halfback, I wasn’t going to score any more tries or set any more up than he’d already done in the jersey prior, so it had to be relationship based and it took a bit of time.

“But it was difficult and a tough decision because emotionally there were some relationships I had to build at the Roosters because he was a good friend of all of them and then from a football perspective.

“I’d spent 14 years combining with my backrower and my fullback Slater and trying to attack edges, that’s where I played most of my footy.

“I get to the Roosters and you’ve got Keary and Tedesco who move sideways across the field quicker than anyone in the game, the first two months was clunky as, I had to change a lot and became a little bit more like Adam Reynolds, creating space and things come from there.

“Emotionally and football wise it was a huge challenge.”

Originally published as ‘It was difficult’: Cooper Cronk and Mitchell Pearce come clean on 2017 Roosters saga