Storm pressure key to stopping Roosters nemesis Cooper Cronk
COOPER Cronk motioned one way and kicked the other.
A pinpoint, 40m drop punt, practised almost daily for more than 12 months, would finally be uncorked on match day.
Not on any old night either, but the game's biggest stage, the decider of the 2017 State of Origin series.
Maroons winger Valentine Holmes didn't not break stride to mark and score one of Origin's most memorable tries as Queensland went on to clinch the series.
Cronk's genius stunned both Queensland and NSW.
As fans lauded the wizardry, the drop punt proved to Richmond assistant coach Craig McRae, 46, who moonlights as Melbourne Storm specialist kicking consultant, how "meticulous" Cronk was.
"Not many in the game can do that kick," McRae said.
"It was across his body, running towards the defence and next minute he kicks it across his body … and they score a try.
"I'd seen him do that at training, he was just meticulous about the way he went about that side of his game."
Cronk fine-tuned his art of kicking with the help of Victoria University biomechanics expert Kevin Ball first, then Melbourne Demons national recruiting officer Kelly O'Donnell.
By his own admission, McRae learned more from Cronk and Storm skipper Cameron Smith than he actually taught.
"They've just got this hand-to-foot co-ordination that looks like they've been kicking all their life," said McRae, a three-time Brisbane Lions premiership midfielder.
"He could play AFL footy in terms of the kicking element, and clearly he could tackle as well."
O'Donnell echoed McRae this week.
"He was a student of the game (AFL) in that (kicking) area, the different subtleties of a high chip kick to the corner or a dribble kick, he just loved being able to shape the ball in different ways," O'Donnell said.
"He was very interested in trying to get better on his opposite side, he thought he could get an advantage through his left foot but he didn't end up using it all that much.
"He was always searching for those types of things that could make a difference to his game."
Cronk's lethal right shoe, or left, if need be, has the potential to bring the Storm undone on Saturday night.
Former NRL star Brett Finch said the Storm must dominate field position to curb Cronk's influence.
"The more time you got and more space you got the more chance you are of coming up with the best type of kick or best type of options," Finch said.
"(Storm) forwards really got battered (in the grand final) last year, it's a great opportunity this year to set the record straight or get one back.
"If you let the opposition forwards roll downhill then he's (Cronk) doing his kicks from half way or inside our half … it's a harder kicker the more opportunity to put pressure on."
But Fox Sports analyst Finch, who spent three seasons in Melbourne to end a 270-game NRL career, warned Cronk would be a factor at some stage, regardless of what Storm forwards could muster.
Cronk barely touched the football playing last year's grand final with a busted shoulder and still had an enormous impact on the result.
"At some stage we're going to have to combat his fifth tackle options (kicks) because he does it so well," Finch said.
"Whether it's the little ones in behind (the Storm defensive line) or the kicks to the wingers you got to make sure you're working hard on fifth tackle and don't stop working until you get the footy back.
"He's going to have us under pressure but you just got to limit those opportunities."