How the Roosters will defy their champion halfback's wishes

As usual, Cooper Cronk has tried to not make the Sydney Roosters’ NRL season-opening clash with South Sydney about himself.

But the tri-colours have defied their grand final hero’s wishes and will pay tribute to him as he prepares to join an elite group of rugby league players.

Cronk will on Friday run out for his 350th first-grade match, becoming just the fourth player in the game’s 112-year history to do so.

Only former Melbourne teammate Cameron Smith, his ex-Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer and Canterbury great Terry Lamb have previously achieved the feat.

Cronulla talisman Paul Gallen (326 games) could also pass the feted mark at some point this year.

When he was recruited by the Roosters in late 2017, the narrative was that chairman Nick Politis signed him to do one thing – deliver a premiership trophy.

Cronk will become just the fourth man in Australian first-grade league history to reach the 350 game milestone. Pic: Getty

He did just that, earning the admiration of all in last year’s grand final when he famously played through the pain of a broken shoulder blade to help his side home.

As much as he would like to notch his milestone without any fanfare, the Roosters defied his requests and will pay tribute to him as well as skipper Boyd Cordner, who will bring up his 150th game, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who plays his 200th, when they take on the Rabbitohs at the SCG.

” It’s important to recognise that,” coach Trent Robinson said.

“Boyd 150, Jared 200 and Cooper 350. They’re very proud of those (milestones) and they want to get (the season) started.

“They’ve accepted the pats on the back from the game and you’ll see the numbers written on the front of their jersey to honour that.”

During the week Cronk modestly suggested he would only have been a mid-level 100 or 150-game player had he not been signed by organisations such as the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters.

“I think that’s Cooper. He’s not the most nostalgic guy,” Robinson said.

“He just gets up and goes about getting better each day and he’s got his processes.

“Even his discussion about his game, there were a lot of people who had nice things to say, but he just wanted to talk about playing tomorrow night.

“He’s the smartest football player that I’ve coached.”