NRL NEWS

Hodges: Next steps for Billy and 'Coops'

I remember being in State of Origin camp once with Queensland and we all went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

The only thing Cooper Cronk ate until he got back to the hotel was a chicken and corn soup; he just looked at everything else because he didn't like to eat unhealthy food.

There was another time in camp where he was trying to rehab a knee injury. Every 20 minutes or so you would hear him leave his hotel room and go to the ice machine in the hallway and fill up his bucket so he could continue to ice his knee.

He just locked himself away in his room icing his knee constantly so that he would be right to play come Wednesday night.

They're just a couple of examples of just how committed he was to his body and making sure he was in the best possible shape for every game that he played.

Sunday will be the last game for 'Coops' as a member of the Melbourne Storm and if he is going to play on next year with another club in Sydney then it is the best kept secret in rugby league.

Just about every club will have the majority of their salary cap spent by now and knowing Cooper the way that I do I wouldn't be surprised to see him retire completely, regardless of the result on Sunday.

When he first announced that he was leaving the Storm I initially thought he would play on because he has obviously still got plenty of good footy left in him but the Storm is now a part of his DNA and I can't imagine he would ever want to line up against them or wear a different jersey.

The other question mark hanging over the Storm this weekend is whether this will be Billy Slater's last game in the NRL.

Having come within a few seconds of doing it myself in 2015, the opportunity to retire with a premiership is the perfect way that every footy player would love to go out but if the desire is still there I think Bill plays again next season.

To come back after two years out of the game and be the best fullback in the NRL by far is pretty extraordinary.

There is always a danger of champion players playing on one year too long but to come back from all his setbacks shows the type of character that he is.

It shows to people in all lines of work that if you are willing to put in the hard work and dedicate yourself to a task then you're going to be successful in whatever it is that you do.

Until full-time on Sunday though we won't know for certain what's been going through his mind for the past couple of months and whether he still has the motivation to go around again for another year.

Whether Billy plays on or not, with Cooper only having 80 minutes left as a Storm player this Sunday's grand final represents the end of an incredible era at the Melbourne Storm and these are players that a club can never truly replace.

Cooper, Billy and Cameron Smith are three of the greatest players of all time and given they are players in key positions their loss is going to be felt without a doubt.

There are some wonderful young kids coming through the ranks in Melbourne but the greatest challenge they will face is not so much on the field but the standards that have been set at training and around the club by these three champions of our game.

 


Final thought

If the Melbourne Storm play the game that the Melbourne Storm can on Sunday night, they blow the Cowboys off the park. There's no doubt about that.

The Cowboys have been tough and courageous but if the Melbourne Storm can put an 80-minute performance together like everyone knows that they can, they win this game quite easily.

But that's not to say that the Cowboys aren't without a hope because in both of their finals games so far the Storm have done some very weird things that you wouldn't normally expect of them.

Passes going to ground, kicks going dead in-goal, these aren't the things we are accustomed to seeing from the Melbourne Storm and I think a lot of it comes back to the pressure of it being Cooper's last game and everyone expecting them to win. Pressure like that can rattle you.

The Cowboys on the other hand have had minimal errors, they have made the most of their opportunities and they have grown as a team over these past three weeks.

They're playing like a group of 17 guys who are all committed to a purpose.

When you've got a group of guys like that they're always going to be dangerous because they have all got a common goal that they want to achieve.