BY CURTIS WOODWARD
He did everything in the game and then did it all again. Cooper Cronk conquered the game with the Melbourne Storm in a glittering career. But that wasn’t enough for the workaholic halfback.
Many believed a 33-year-old Cronk would retire after Melbourne’s 2017 premiership success. Instead, he moved to Sydney and became a Rooster.
By season’s end, Cronk’s new club were top of the pile and his fabled shoulder has become rugby league folklore.
Two Dally M Medals, 360 NRL games, premierships at the Storm and Roosters, countless State of Origin victories with Queensland, a Clive Churchill Medal, a World Cup with Australia and the Golden Boot.
What a career.
Asked about his time in Melbourne with the ‘Big Three’ at Monday’s press conference, amicable as always, even with his friendship with former teammate Cameron Smith now non-existent, Cronk replied: “My job was easy, a future immortal passed the ball to me and then I just passed the ball to another future immoral”.
And then a backhanded compliment for himself.
“I’m probably the best third wheel the game has ever seen.”
Cronk also thanked Craig Bellamy calling him “the most influential person on my footy career”.
“I just really appreciate everything Melbourne Storm has done for me. I moved down there as a kid with just an opportunity,” Cronk said.
“There are not too many people I respect more than Craig Bellamy. I think fondly about our mateship. He is a mate first and a coach second. In terms of football the work ethic, the humility, the dedication and just what it takes to make it – he taught me that.
“To the Roosters organisation, I thank you very much. This club has a reputation of maybe living the high life and sipping lattes but there’s a lot of heart and a lot of soul.”
What about the fans?
“The game doesn’t exist without the NRL community and therefore I wouldn’t exist. The game cops its whacks but the game has the ability to transform lives and it has transformed mine.
“To members, fans, supporters of both the Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters – thank you very much. You created an environment, an atmosphere of plenty of support.”
But it’s Cronk’s ability to improve those around that may well be his legacy.
We’ll leave the final word with one of the best coaches of the modern era in Trent Robinson.
“He’s made me a better coach.”
You don’t hear that every day.