Cronulla Sharks-Melbourne Storm rivalry not a factor in Cooper Cronk chase

Open arms: Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk is tackled by Sharks forward Wade Graham last season. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Open arms: Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk is tackled by Sharks forward Wade Graham last season. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend believes the rivalry between the Sharks and Melbourne should not be a factor in Cronulla’s pursuit of Storm No.7 Cooper Cronk.

Cronulla are keen to lure Cronk to the shire as a replacement for James Maloney if the mooted interest in the NSW five-eighth from Newcastle and South Sydney comes to fruition.

It is understood Cronk has told the Sharks he would not make any decision on his playing future until after the third and deciding State of Origin clash in Brisbane on Wednesday night.

Cronulla and Melbourne have enjoyed a bitter rivalry in recent years, fueled by representative players on both sides bringing their Origin rivalry back to club football. The Sharks won bragging rights last season when they secured their first premiership at the expense of Melbourne in a tense grand final.

Whether or not the Sharks pursue Cronk won’t affect Townsend who signed a three-year contract extension with the club in April. But the 26-year-old said the rivalry between the clubs would not be a factor if the champion Storm half decided to move to the shire.

“We’ve got Josh Dugan coming here from the Dragons next year and we have a pretty big rivalry against St George. I think once that stuff happens the rivalry sort of goes out the door,” he said.

“I think [Cronk would be an asset], for sure. He’s proven that over a long career [as an] Australia and Queensland player. He’s a quality player.

“As far as we know as players Jimmy is on contract next year and he’ll be here and we expect him to be here. If anything changes I’m sure they’ll let us know but Jimmy is a quality player and someone I’ve really enjoyed playing along with and I’ve learnt a lot off Jimmy.

Sharks forward Chris Heighington echoed Townsend’s sentiment. The 300-game veteran, who is in talks with Cronulla to go around for another season, would welcome the chance to have Cronk as a teammate in 2018. 

“It’d go down well. He’s an awesome player. I’m not sure if he’s committed to playing again. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the world so it’d be a great addition here if he does come,” Heighington said.

“He’d probably fit in well. At least Wadeo wouldn’t be canning him every time he got the ball. If he does come here it'd be awesome for the club but that’s up to Flano and the club.”