Cooper Cronk, the Melbourne playmaker, is in line for a Test call-up against New Zealand after Johnathan Thurston, the Australian halfback, was injured in North Queensland's 34-6 loss to the Storm yesterday. Thurston took a heavy shot from Adam Blair, the second-rower, that rattled his right shoulder, forcing him from the field after 12 minutes and making him a doubt for the match against the Kiwis on Friday.
Cronk was instrumental in the win and it may have been enough to convince Tim Sheens, the Kangaroos coach, with the Test team to be announced this afternoon. If Thurston is ruled out, Cronk's only obstacle will be Scott Prince, the Gold Coast skipper, who was also impressive in the Titans' 38-14 win over Penrith yesterday after making his return from a broken thumb. Prince showed no signs of rustiness as he masterminded a win that moved his side into second place behind St George Illawarra.
The scheming halfback scored a try and kicked seven goals for a personal haul of 18 points after having a surgical pin removed from his thumb on Tuesday and having just one training session to prepare for the match. "I copped a couple of whacks throughout the game," said Prince, who wore a hand guard for protection. "I'm just happy there was no damage done. I'll take a lot of confidence out of that."
St George highlighted the gulf in class between Premiership contenders and the also rans when they shut out a sorry Cronulla team 38-0 yesterday. It looked like a case of damage control from the outset for Sharks as they slumped to their 10th away loss in a row. The Dragons' potent left side attack toyed with their outclassed opposition, Brett Morris registering his second hat-trick of the season and Matt Cooper finishing with two in the seven-try rout.
Canberra put their second-half jitters behind them and handed the New Zealand Warriors their third consecutive loss yesterday with a 23-16 victory in Auckland. Canberra took a 16-0 lead into half-time but were having nightmares when the Warriors scored twice in the opening 20 minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to six points. But a brilliant off-load from Bronson Harrison sent Joel Thompson crashing over in the 62nd minute and a field goal from Marc Herbert ensured a victory for Canberra.
Meanwhile, Israel Folau, one of rugby league's brightest young stars, said yesterday that he might stay with the Brisbane Broncos despite offers from rugby union and Australian Rules football. Speaking to Australian television network Seven, the 21-year-old Folau said he was weighing up offers from the Broncos, the Melbourne Rebels rugby side and the Australian Football League's Greater Western Sydney franchise.
"To be quite honest I've got a few options up my sleeve and I really haven't made my mind up," he said. "Rugby league's still an option as well as staying with the Broncos, so I haven't given that up." * With agency