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When a footballer makes headlines for the best reason

NRL star Cooper Cronk has quit his Melbourne club to support his wife's career

There is something remarkable about rugby league star player Cooper Cronk publicly announcing he’s quitting his Melbourne club and relocating to Sydney to support his fiance’s flourishing career.

The fact that in an ideal world it wouldn’t be groundbreaking doesn’t render the decision any more ordinary.

“There are a few things in life more important than football. You know, like family, getting married and a future,” Cronk said in a press conference on Tuesday. “I’ve been pretty selfish in my approach to my football career and I think it’s time to put someone else and something else first.”

That person is Tara Rushton, a Sydney-based Fox Sports presenter who Cronk says has worked incredibly hard to achieve what she has.

“We’ve had a thousand discussions about the possibilities of things but I’m not about to ask her or force her to give up what she’s worked so hard for,” the 33-year-old told reporters.




Former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and family (Credit: Getty)

Both Cronk and Rushton are eminently talented with potential in spades: he’s won the Dally M twice and she was awarded Most Outstanding Female Presenter at the 2015 ASTRA awards.

Cronk admitted if they lived in the same city they wouldn’t need to navigate this decision

“I’m jealous of the guys who have their families here, who have their loved ones and have football in the same city,” he said. “Unfortunately — or fortunately — whichever side you sit on, it’s time for me to try and prioritise my time and my future and that’s why I’ve made the announcement.”

The announcement – and their decision – to prioritise Rushton’s career over Cronk’s at this point in their lives is far from commonplace.

Yet the reverse – where a footballer’s spouse has relocated and/or given up their own careers to support their partner’s – is de rigeur.

There are some signs that, gradually, we are inching in the other direction with more high profile men openly prioritising their families.

In December last year longtime Channel Nine sports broadcaster James Brayshaw announced he was leaving the Footy Show after 11 years to focus on his family.

“I’ve got to get better at being a dad, and a partner, being around a bit more, not being stressed and knackered when I am,” he said. “That’s the part of my life I’ve got horribly wrong for too long. That’s priority No.1.”

The month before New Zealand’s longstanding Prime Minister John Key had announced his shock resignation, explaining his role had taken a toll on his family.  

“I don’t feel comfortable looking down the barrel of the camera and not being honest … On a family basis, I don’t think I could commit much longer than the next election,” Key said. “It’s been a decade of a lot of long, lonely nights for [wife Bronagh Key] and it’s the right time for me to come home.”

The NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was immediately complimentary of Cronk’s decision, tweeting:

Well done Cooper Cronk. Articulate, Honest & Humble. A family first approach to your decision making is always a recipe for success!”

Yet the reaction Cronk’s decision to leave Melbourne at the end of the year – during what some describe as the height of his career – suggests this is unchartered territory for many in the code. Disbelief is an understatement.

“I would be very surprised. Why would Cooper Cronk come to Sydney to play rugby league?” NRL coach Des Hasler asked when told of the news.

A hypothetical bidding war has broken out for what the star halfback might be paid by a Sydney Club which led him to reiterate his position on television on Tuesday night.

“I probably wasn’t strong enough in my press conference earlier today. I’ve got no interest in considering offers from Sydney anytime soon — I’m talking over a couple of months because I don’t know if I actually want to play on next year,” Cronk said on NRL 360.

There is a big difference between saying you are prioritizing your life outside of work, and actually prioritising your life outside of work. IN this case, Cronk is walking the walk.

And the upside to more men, like Cooper Cronk, doing this is that the juggle for their partner will get a whole lot easier. And that’s worth celebrating.

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