Storm avoids the Hodges hype Cronk set for massive game

RUGBY LEAGUE: Melbourne game-breaker Cooper Cronk says his team can not afford to get caught up in the hype surrounding Justin Hodges' farewell when his side collides with the retiring centre's Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday.

The 33-year-old will play at least two more games for the club at home, in the finals, but his official goodbye will be held in this week's final-round blockbuster.

After 189 games for the club, 247 NRL appearances, 24 State of Origin outings for Queensland and 13 matches for Australia, it's bound to be an emotional match for Hodges, the Broncos players and their supporters.

But ever-professional Cronk said his team must put the hype aside and focus on the job at hand.

Melbourne game-breaker Cooper Cronk
Melbourne game-breaker Cooper Cronk

"We're aware of the circumstances surrounding the game. The Broncos will try and send Justin out the best way they can and make it the best possible atmosphere for someone who has been a great servant of the club for a long time but our focus will definitely be on the things we did last week (in a 14-6 win over the Cowboys). Maintaining those things and improving the areas we didn't do so well."

The NRL playoffs don't start for another week but Cronk expects Thursday's clash to have the hallmarks of a finals blockbuster.

"IT'S a massive game," he said before a training session with the Storm at Sunshine Coast Stadium yesterday.

"Finals must be around the corner because the footy is starting to pick up. The intensity of Saturday night (against the Cowboys) was finals-like and no doubt it will be exactly the same on Thursday."

While the Broncos are all but assured of finishing the regular season in second place, the fifth-placed Storm can finish as high as fourth or as low as seventh.

Consistency has been arguably the side's most pressing issue.

It won three in a row early in the season but has since been up and down.

Cronk was keen to see his side embark on a string of wins after its impressive triumph over the Cowboys.

"We hope so because we're going to have to win games from here on out to be successful," he said.

"We have lost to teams below us on the ladder and played some really good football against teams above us on the ladder so we know our best football is super competitive and we know our average games are below par and not to the standard we want to play at," he said.

"We know exactly what's in front of us and we've got a great coaching staff and a good senior playing group to try and direct this team in the right direction."

The Storm is on the Sunshine Coast for four days.

Players signed autographs after an open training session yesterday.

The club is in its first year of an affiliation with the Sunshine Coast Falcons.

Last week it announced its under-20 squad will be based at Bokarina next year.


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