Keary: I can lead Roosters in grand final
FIVE-EIGHTH Luke Keary insist he is ready to take ownership of the Sydney Roosters if Cooper Cronk fails to make the 2018 NRL grand final, saying: "If I couldn't, then I'm not doing the job the Roosters brought me here for."
Gunning for his second premiership in only five years, Keary is confident of assuming the No.1 playmaker role if Cronk fails to overcome a severe rotator cuff injury in time for the ANZ Stadium decider against Melbourne.
Outstanding against South Sydney last Saturday night, the 26-year-old said improvements to his game over the past couple of seasons, particular at the Roosters, had him ready to take control of the Bondi Junction club - an assignment usually reserved for Cronk.
"Over four or five years now of playing, I feel confident in myself that I can do that in these occasions," Keary said of leading the team.
"If I couldn't, then I'm not really doing the job the Roosters brought me here for.
"I'm confident in myself I can do that if it needs to be done."
The Roosters released a statement Sunday explaining that, while Cronk had suffered a "severe rotator cuff injury", the halfback would be given until game day to prove his fitness for the decider against his old club.
The injury is similar to that which kept North Queensland great Johnathan Thurston out of the 2017 State of Origin decider.
Still, Keary and his fellow team-mates are remaining hopeful.
"I'm hoping Coops will be alright," the playmaker said. "Right now, I don't want to prepare for anything. And I don't really want to talk about if he's going to be out.
"Obviously if it is anything like the injury Johnathan Thurston did in Origin, he won't play. But if it's anything where they give Cooper a chance, even remotely, he's going to play.
"Everybody knows how professional he is. He just gets it done."
With Cronk suffering his shoulder injury just before halftime against Souths, Keary stepped up in the biggest way.
"I had to do a little bit more," he grinned. "But we prepare for scenarios like that."
Really, you prepare for scenarios like Cronk busting his shoulder so badly, and his body being thrown so severely out of whack, he couldn't even kick for touch?
"Ah, I was a bit worried when he asked me to kick for touch," Keary conceded, grinning. "I didn't know how bad it was until then.
"So when he asked me to kick, that's when I was thinking 'oh f …'.
"But I knew what I had to do. We were in front so I just had to game manage.
"It would've been tough if we were behind but I just had to game manage, drive the boys into position to get some good kicks away and then get the kicks away for Coops.
"That was it.
"We couldn't run too many plays without him. So we just did what we had to do to get through.
"And I knew (defensively), he wouldn't let us down.
"It didn't matter what was wrong with him. I knew he was going to turn up."
And as for being ready to double down on that 2014 premiership with Souths?
"I'll certainly appreciate (this week) more," he said. "First time around, I'd only played between 15 and 20 games so you think you're going to make one every year.
"Now I've been through some tougher times, you realise how tough it is to make it here.
"Even to get to a preliminary final … you appreciate being lucky enough to be in that week.
"But in saying that, it means nothing if we don't win."
On the plus for the Roosters is the return of superstar centre Latrell Mitchell and big-hitting prop Dylan Napa from suspensions for the grand final.