Cooper Cronk celebrates after a comeback win over the Wests Tigers.

"I've been pretty selfish in my approach to my football career, and I think it's time to put something else and someone else first." 

Good for you Cooper Cronk. 

Maybe the rest of us can follow suit and stop being so selfish. 

Like any Melbourne Storm supporter, my initial thought when hearing on Tuesday Cronk would be leaving the club was to rush home, slip into something comfortable and drown myself in a four-litre tub of ice cream whilst listening to 'All By Myself' a la Bridget Jones. 

But it quickly dawned on me that this had always been coming. The concept of the 'Big Three' couldn't last forever, and instead of a rival club splitting them up, it was good to see that love tore them apart instead. 

Some of the criticisms of Cronk on 'anti-social media' simply made no sense. Inappropriate remarks about the salary cap were raised – let me remind you both of Cronk's Dally M awards came post-2012 – while others questioned how someone could make the move for 'love'.

But that's Cooper Cronk. He lives his life his own way and has reaped the rewards ever since.

While others say they will put their best foot forward and give 100 per cent, Cronk simply does those things and more. It's why he's the reigning Golden Boot winner at the ripe old age of 33.

It's why he sets up tries whether your name is Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Maurice Blair or Matt Duffie. It's why he has a freakish connection with Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. It's why he's the most professional player on and off the field, and perhaps the best-spoken too. 

 


My first memory of the superstar No.7 was a game against Penrith back in 2004 – Cronk's first season in the NRL. 

My dad and I had just come back from visiting someone in hospital. We were tired, the footy was on and we – well he – didn't feel like cooking. We ordered some Thai food from a place that no longer exists, but boy did they do a good Penang curry. 

We settled in with the heater on, bellies full of rice, and watched the Storm in a rare free-to-air game decimate the Panthers 66-14. The usual suspects did their thing. Steve Turner snared a hat-trick and Matt Orford nailed 11 goals, but it was the form of a young Cooper Cronk – I had to ask my dad who that was (he didn't know either) – who caught the eye with two tries off the bench. 

Cronk continued to flourish from the bench and at five-eighth in 2005 before he was handed the reins in 2006 as the Storm's first-choice halfback.

We didn't have Foxtel in those days because mum wanted me to focus on my studies – I think I turned out alright – so I tuned into the Round 1 game against the Warriors on ABC Radio. The Storm won and Cronk played well.

Three weeks later, I made the trip to Leichhardt Oval. It was the first footy game I'd been to. Cronk set up the first try of the game with a pinpoint kick for Greg Inglis and then crossed for a consolation try with the final play of the game. 

It wasn't the result I wanted, but there were some positive signs. It turned out they were more than just positive as the Storm won 20 of their next 22 matches to make the grand final for the first time since 1999. 

I could go through the next decade of dominance, but this isn't an obituary. We can save the farewells for another time, whenever that might be.

Instead, I'd like to look back at some of the moments that define Cooper Cronk. These aren't necessarily his most spectacular plays, but they are special in their own right. 

7. Storm v Titans (Round 26, 2013)

Sometimes winning isn't enough. Cooper Cronk's right boot gave the Storm a golden point field goal in this game to snatch a sloppy win over the Titans. Cronk had missed his first five attempts before he finally nailed one from 40 metres out to win the game. Rather than celebrate, he simply shook his head, clearly disappointed with how he and the team had played. Even in victory, he bemoaned the absence of perfection. 

6. Storm v Panthers (Round 22, 2012)

The Storm had started the year with 12 wins from their first 13 matches. The title was theirs to lose. And that's very nearly what happened as they lost five on the trot to fall to third spot on the ladder. Were they done? Not quite, as Penrith found out the hard way. Sisa Waqa scored after just 34 seconds and his effort was soon followed by a masterful try involving the Big Three that finished with Cronk going over untouched. The Storm went into half-time up 34-0 with Cronk adding another try to his tally before the full-time whistle. Melbourne didn't lose again in 2012. 

5. Storm v Sea Eagles (Preliminary Final, 2012)

It wasn't a grand final, but this served as somewhat of a decider between two of the game's fiercest rivals. Locked at one win apiece after back-to-back showdowns in 2007 and 2008, this was the game that would define the Melbourne-Manly rivalry. That's all the incentive Cronk needed. He punished a Tony Williams error to open the scoring with a 40-metre dash, set up Will Chambers via a trademark inside ball to Billy Slater, and then scored the all-important first try of the second-half to turn a 12-6 lead into a 40-12 mauling.  

4. Storm v Bulldogs (Round 16, 2006)

There were a lot of people questioning whether Cronk could carry the Storm when he became their first-choice halfback in 2006. The doubters were silenced on a freezing Friday night in Melbourne against a Bulldogs side featuring Sonny Bill Williams, Roy Asotasi and Andrew Ryan. Trailing 12-10 with time all but expired, Cronk put in a cross-field chip kick from inside his own half looking for Ryan Hoffman who was stationed on the right edge. Not only did the kick find him in full flight, but Hoffman was able to gather it in and offload to Jake Webster who raced away to win the game, all because Cronk had the guts to produce a play most youngsters would have shied away from.

3. Maroons v Blues (Game III, 2016)

The Maroons headed to Sydney with an unassailable 2-0 lead, eager to blow the Blues out of the park with a State of Origin whitewash series win in enemy territory. Things looked to be going to script with Queensland ahead by two points in the 79th minute, only for James Tedesco to burst into the clear with no one in front of him and only 45 metres to run. The Blues fullback was home, the commentators were cheering him on, and then Cronk reeled him in a metre short of the line. It was the effort play only champions can produce under fatigue. Did it surprise anyone? Not really. 

2. Storm v Bulldogs (Grand Final, 2012)

Any Storm fan will tell you this was the most emotional night in the club's history, given what had happened in 2010. This was a chance for Melbourne to create history with a win that could never be taken away from them. And win they did, with Cooper Cronk's fingerprints all over the result. His pass to set up Billy Slater in the first half is probably the most underrated bit of trickery we've seen in recent times. Cronk feigned to play short to Ryan Hoffman, instead choosing to pop a ball off his left hip for Billy Slater to run on to, with the champion fullback quick enough – and strong enough – to reach the line. Cronk wasn't done there, chipping for Justin O'Neill to score a minute before half-time in what proved to be the final score of the game. He deservedly won the Clive Churchill medal, etching his name into the annals of history then and there as one of the game's best. 

1. Maroons v Blues (Game III, 2012)

Sitting in an over-priced pub in Sydney's CBD, sporting a questionable beard and donning a Blues jersey drenched in sweat, beer and the crumbs of my recently devoured chicken parmigiana, I was torn. My beloved Blues had fallen at the death – again – but this time it was at the hands of a Storm player. In my younger, more naïve years, I would have been cheering. But the older, wiser me knew that on Wednesday nights in winter, blood runs blue and club allegiances go out the window. The game in question, of course, was the State of Origin decider. Every sinew in Cooper Cronk's body came together in one perfect whole as he nailed a 41-metre field goal to give his side a 21-20 win to claim the series. It broke my heart as a Blues fan. But somewhere deep down there was a skerrick of purple pride. I wasn't selfish enough to begrudge him for breaking my heart then, and nothing has changed five years later following his decision to leave the club that he helped build.