Cron said he does not hold any grudges about how he exited NSW. He hoped for a guarantee of a head coaching role, but was not provided with that by then chief executive Andrew Hore.
In the end, Gibson did not stick around for 2020. Hore then unveiled Penney as NSW coach just days before resigning, prompting Waratahs chairman Roger Davis to launch a blistering attack on the Kiwi administrator.
“At the Waratahs there was an offer … but timelines probably didn’t match up,” Cron said. “I wasn’t negative at all, that’s what happens in sport. Sometimes the timelines don’t match up for the organisation. I can’t hold any grudges, that’s not what it’s about. There was a lot of debate. It took me five months to decide. Even Steve [Hansen] had had enough at the end of it.
“The reason for me coming to Japan was working with Steve and a family decision. Steve made it really clear to me when he was talking about Japan he didn’t want to coach another team, he wanted to mentor a coach and he’d like me to be that person. That was very humbling.”
Hooper and Read, respective captains of the Wallabies and All Blacks in many Bledisloe Cup outings, have now joined forces in the Top League and love what Cron brings to the table as a head coach.
“He’s really cutting his teeth over here,” Hooper said. “I’ve certainly seen a growth in him since I last was coached by him. Being around Steve and Kieran and bouncing ideas off some of the other coaches up here … he is only going to improve more and more.”
Read said Cron’s ability to remain calm, while navigating translation and COVID-19 complications, was admirable.
Hansen is keen to extend Cron’s Japanese contract and deep down hopes one day he can move into the Kiwi system.
“If Steve has anything to do with it, he’s only going one way when he comes back, which I believe is to New Zealand,” Read said. “As a coach you can go anywhere. I’ve been really impressed with what he’s done up here and I think he’s got a big future. It’s going to be up to him and his family.”
Not so fast, says Hooper, who played under Cron at the Waratahs in 2018 and 2019.
“You know my answer – [I am] the opposite to Kieran,” Hooper said. “He loves Sydney.”
Toyota Verblitz have won their first two games of the Top League season, yet Hooper and Read haven’t started in the same team because of rules that state only two international players can take the field at once.
However, there was a moment of friendly fire when the pair eventually made it onto the park together.
“We got to be on the field in the first game and Hoops still follows around a black jersey because he came into a ruck and split my eye,” Read said. “I think he’s on auto-pilot.”
Hooper laughed it off as an “accident” and later said he was enjoying his six-month Japanese sabbatical.
“It’s been refreshing,” said Hooper, who is expecting to return to Australia in late May before two weeks of quarantine before the international season, starting with a likely series against France.
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Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald
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