Car rides fuelled early Cronk-Smith friendship

IN THEIR time together in rugby league, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have been part of 10 NRL finals series, played in five grand finals, brought five Origin shields home to Queensland, and a World Cup for good measure.

On the eve of Smith's 300th game for the Melbourne Storm against Penrith tonight, Cronk recalled how ther paths first crossed back in 2004, when they were both playing for the club's Queensland affiliate.

"My first year out of high school playing for Brisbane Norths, we grew up 10 minutes away from one another and he would actually pick me up for six months of the year, drop me off to training and then drop me back home," Cronk said. "He still asked me for fuel money, but that is my first memory.

"Not much has changed - he still lives around the corner from me now so I'm sure he'd still pick me up if I asked for a lift."

After four consecutive losses, what Cronk hopes is that all the Storm players lift for the skipper's milestone, although he said it was important not to be distracted by it.

"The best way to celebrate is to go out and do your job. I'll be lacing those boots up as tight as I normally do and going out and doing my job for Cameron," Cronk said.

Meanwhile Penrith has called up utility Will Smith to replace fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

The 19-year-old was hospitalised earlier in the week after suffering a collapsed lung, the result of a genetic condition called primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

- APN SPORTS BUREAU



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