Retiring Cronk’s touching Smith line
NRL great Cooper Cronk has announced he will hang up his boots at the end of the 2019 season, ending a glittering 15-year career of rugby league.
The 35-year-old Roosters star addressed the media in Sydney on Monday morning, thanking the club, his family and the wider NRL community for their support throughout his career.
"I've got a lot of people to thank, coaches, sponsors, supporters, media, commentators," he said.
"The game wouldn't exist without them. The game cops it whacks every now and again but it has an ability to transform lives. I am forever in its debt."
Cronk thanked former Storm teammates Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, who he spent years dominating the competition with.
"Billy and Cameron. I don't think thanks cuts it to be honest. those two guys will go down in history. That probably makes me the best third wheel ever seen," he said.
"My job was pretty easy. A future Immortal would pass the ball to me and I'd pass it on to another future Immortal.
"The weddings, the births, the parties, the good times and I will be forever grateful for what those two guys did for me both on and off the field.
"In 2001 when we met at Brisbane Norths who would have thought we would have that journey together.
"I'm really pleased and humbled that my name gets spoken about in the same breath as those two."
The touching tribute to Smith came after rumours of a rift between them circulated the rugby league world.
An awkward handshake with his former skipper at the close of a Roosters vs Storm match set the rumour mill on fire, but Cronk's latest comments suggest all the feud talk regarding Smith was overblown.
Cronk also thanked "one of my great mates", Storm coach Craig Bellamy, who spent years guiding him from a plucky young halfback to a modern-day great.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said Cronk was the most selfless team player he'd ever seen and paid tribute to his incredible list of achievements: two Dally Ms, three premierships and an untarnished reputation on and off the field.
The 35-year-old has lit up the sport for both the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters, winning premierships for both clubs while also being a strong ambassador for rugby league.
Cronk ruled out coaching an NRL team in the future but admitted he'd love to be a commentator in the future.
Cronk's departure will see Sydney lose its star recruit but also gain back $1 million per year on their salary cap.
Cronk's move to Sydney in late 2017 was one of the landmark talking points of the year. The departure from Melbourne after 325 games for the Storm paid off immediately with the star half leading the Roosters to a premiership in his first season up north.
The victory saw him become the first play to win consecutive premeirships for two different clubs in the NRL era.