Premiership-winning halfback Craig Wing believes the battle between rival No.7s Cooper Cronk and Matt Orford will decide Sunday’s NRL grand final.
Better known throughout most of his career as a hooker, Wing piloted the Sydney Roosters from halfback when they won the 2002 decider against the New Zealand Warriors.
“They’re both fantastic players and I think Matty Orford didn’t get player of the year for no reason,” the South Sydney utility told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think there’ll be a lot of pressure on him. He was a little bit quiet in last year’s grand final so I’m sure he won’t let that happen again.
“For my mind (Cronk’s) the one that drives the Melbourne Storm. He’s behind most of their attacking plays and their field position and their direction.
“He’s the key man for them and he’s a very consistent, clinical player so I think that’s where it’s going to be won, between those two.”
Wing, one of Cameron Smith’s predecessors as Australia’s Test hooker, said the suspension of the Melbourne skipper would not have a major bearing on the Storm’s game.
“I thought it would have more of an impact than it has but they’re a great team and obviously coached very, very well and it seemed to have lifted them in the last game,” Wing said.
“So if they can repeat that performance then I don’t think it will have much impact at all.
“They’ve got so many players who can step up and if everyone does their job and a few of those players have brilliant games, they’re almost impossible to beat.”
Wing said Manly were clearly overawed in last year’s decider, but that would not be the case on Sunday.
“Last year they were certainly shellshocked and it’s a kind of game where it can really get away from you and before you know it’s all over,” he said.
“I remember my first grand final against the Broncos … We just weren’t ready for it and the next time you’re there you certainly are.
“I’m sure Manly won’t let the experience get away from them and I’m sure they won’t let the clock get away from this time because they’ll be ready for it.”
But Wing said the outcome at ANZ Stadium was tough to predict.
“A few weeks ago I would have said Melbourne but as of now I think it’s honestly 50-50,” he said.
“Grand finals are all about doing the little things right and field position and it only takes one little thing like a 40-20 kick or a dropped ball (that) can turn the entire game.
“That kind of a game I think suits Melbourne because they’re very clinical.
“But Manly’s been playing really, really well so obviously I think it’s 50-50.”
Meanwhile, Wing played down media reports of a near riot after Sunday’s Prime Minister’s XIII clash with Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
“I guess if you look at old footage of when the Beatles rocked up at a place, there’s just thousands of people there and they just want to be a part of it … that’s what it was like,” he said.