Cronk Was Mentally Tired Not Physically

"Sometimes harder than physical stuff"

Cronk Was Mentally Tired Not Physically

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Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has revealed the decision to rest halfback Cooper Cronk from the Storm's NRL grand final rematch was caused by Origin's mental toll, not fears of a physical injury.

The Storm won without Cronk for the first time in two years on Thursday night, as they outlasted Cronulla 18-13 at Southern Cross Group Stadium despite trailing late.

Had Cronk played, it would have been his third game in just eight days. Queensland's 28-4 Origin loss to NSW last Wednesday was followed by the Storm's 40-12 thumping of Newcastle on Friday.

Without their little general, the other two-thirds of Melbourne's "big three" stood tall, as Cameron Smith set up their first two tries and Billy Slater provided the match winner for Felise Kaufusi with just five minutes left on the clock.

But Bellamy said after that while Cronk may have been physically able to face the Sharks, the lingering mental affects of the high-intensity clash meant he may not have been up for it.

"It's probably more mental for these older blokes, especially this far after Origin," Bellamy said.

"No so much the physical. Just getting yourself up, getting ready. Sometimes that's harder than the physical stuff.

"With the mindset he was in and physically, we thought it might be best not to play him three times in eight days."

Cronk's schedule directly contrasted with that of captain Cameron Smith, who skipped the win over Newcastle.

Smith said he wanted to be involved in the grand final rematch, and believed that playing in the Sharks clash would best prepare him for Origin II on June 21 at ANZ Stadium.

"It was my plan to go that way - to miss a game straight after Origin," he said.

"I felt it would be best for myself and the team to not play last week and come into this one fresh.

"If I didn't play tonight and I played last week I think it's about three weeks in between games. It's probably not an ideal build-up for myself going into that next Origin."

Bellamy's comments are an indication that the first-placed Storm could follow a similar model throughout the rest of the Origin period.

They also have two tough games in the nine days following State of Origin II, both against high-placed opponents: the Sydney Roosters in Adelaide and Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

They have the bye after the third Origin clash before the run into the finals.

- AAP

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