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Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater after Melbourne's grand final win in 2012.

Playing alongside long-time teammate Cooper Cronk for more than 15 years has been taken for granted by Billy Slater, who admits the halfback's decision to leave will be a strange feeling without him.

Cronk shared his decision to move to Sydney at the end of this season with his teammates on Monday and was given the side's blessing to pass on the second year of his two-year contract in Melbourne.

"Definitely not, it would be selfish of us [to change his mind]," Slater said. 

"He's doing a selfless thing for his partner and future. That's not for us to interfere with. We're mates and colleagues of Cooper.

"The potential of playing against Cooper – I've never played against him. That's a bit weird thinking about it.

"I've trained against him a lot. It's hard enough training against him.

"If he does go around next year, it'll be an interesting preparation going up against him."

While Slater couldn’t envision himself playing with another side, he understands Cronk's difficult situation and the toll of a long-distance relationship with his fiancée Fox Sports presenter Tara Rushton.

"Personally I wouldn’t [play for another team] but this is not a football matter," Slater said. "I'm lucky enough to have my family well entrenched here in Melbourne. 

"Coop made that point to me at my house. He said 'if I was able to have what you have here, I'd be here.' Unfortunately he hasn’t and he's been very selfless in how he's approached this and his decision to move to Sydney. That's for Tara and what she has up there and how hard she's worked for her occupation. 

"You'd have to admire him for how he's gone about it."

After winning the 2012 premiership and leading the Storm to six grand final appearances, Slater is adamant the two-time Dally M Player of the Year could continue to thrive elsewhere. 

"He certainly can," Slater said. "He could go for a number of years but it wouldn’t surprise me if he retired as well. Cooper can do things differently sometimes and this is a decision for him and his family."

For the 33-year-old Slater, he specified that Cronk's decision will have no impact on his own career decisions.

"This is a totally separate issue to me," Slater said. "This won't determine what I'll do next year and I haven’t really thought about that. I'm just enjoying playing football again."


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