Cronk reflects ahead of game 300
Cooper Cronk didn't want the fanfare, he didn't want all eyes on him with such a big game around the corner – but if anyone at the Melbourne Storm deserves it, it's him.
Cronk will become the 25th player in NRL history to play 300 games when the Storm host the Raiders in the preliminary final on Saturday night, and will be just the 11th player to do it at the one club.
The 32-year-old's illustrious career has spanned 13 seasons, leading Melbourne into 12 finals series during that time. His personal accolades include being the 2013 Dally M Medallist, a four-time Dally M Halfback of the Year and the 2012 Clive Churchill Medallist, as well as representing Australia 28 times.
As is the humble nature of the Storm star, Cronk wanted his milestone to almost fly under the radar but said he was humbled by the support on Tuesday when current and former players gathered together to celebrate the special event.
"Towards the back end of the year the football department started asking me questions about what I'd like and Dave (CEO Dave Donaghy) was right – I didn't want banners, I didn't want shirts and I didn't want hashtags but I appreciated them doing that because it was a special day yesterday for myself and my teammates and some close friends," Cronk said.
"It is a massive occasion, and it's one I'll be fortunate and very proud to be a part of on Saturday night, but as I've said to the boys all week there's something greater on offer here for this football club.
"I want that to be the forefront and I'm happy to take a back seat leading into a preliminary final."
It's not the first time Cronk has played for the chance to reach a grand final but as he turns his attention to the future of the club he wants his teammates to be able to experience what he has over the past 13 seasons.
"This has been one of the more enjoyable football seasons I've had to date, and I've played a few. I've had some remarkable moments on the football field, and I suppose my inspiration these days is to make sure other guys get to experience moments like that," Cronk said.
"When you're 50 and you're retired and things have gone before you, you can sit back and really cherish it. I've had some of the most memorable moments, and if I can play a little part in helping guys that haven't achieved those moments, that'll make me super proud as well."
One of Cronk's biggest fans over the journey has been coach Craig Bellamy, as the pair have worked tirelessly together to make the Melbourne Storm what it is today.
Bellamy rates Cronk as one of the best he's ever coached, but said it's what the public don't see behind the scenes that makes the halfback such a pleasure to work with.
"I've coached a lot of players, and while I'm not going to rate them, he's right up there," Bellamy said.
"What he's actually give our club for a long period of time is not only what he does on the field, but what he gives off the field, he's really good with a lot of our younger players.
"Especially for younger blokes who may be going through a tough time, when Coops hears of that, he's the first one to go and help them.
"He's not just a great footy player, he's a really good person, and this club has been very lucky to have him for 14 years."