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It took 27 minutes for Cooper Cronk to stumble, even if for only a moment.

His eyes moistened in tribute to Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, then wife Tara and son Lennox. But emotion was always expected.

"The best third wheel the game has ever seen" emerged as an early contender for one-liner of the presser, Cronk deflecting praise to his Immortal-in waiting teammates.

Then almost half an hour in it came. The pause, cause for a wry grin on James Tedesco's face, the Roosters fullback perhaps knowing what Cronk would offer up next.

"If there's one piece of advice you could give to young players coming through, what would that be?"

"Phwoar … ummmm … ah… oh.

"One piece of advice would be hard work pays off," Cronk mused.

"There's no doubt about that. But you better show some humility along the way.

"I think a lot of people have the talent. I think a lot of people have a little bit of work ethic.

"But what takes you from good to great is that ability to understand where you've come from and show a bit of humility on the way."

Looking back at the best of Cooper Cronk

For all the ink penned on Cronk over 16 years, these words summed him up as succinctly as any.

Aside from Trent Robinson 10 minutes earlier.

"He's the greatest team player I've ever seen."

For a man with more NRL games than any other half in history, and a career in the spotlight thanks to success only a handful can match, few get to truly see it.

Cooper Cronk reveals why it’s time to retire

"Every sinew in my body" coming together for a particularly pinpoint Origin kick in 2017. The art of sidestepping with a smile for 16 years have created one hell of a public persona.

Roosters players broke into giggles when Robinson began explaining it.

Cronk has long been a pro. But never beyond reproach for those he takes the field alongside.

"He's one of the boys," Robinson grinned.

"He's very clear on his moral compass, so that never wanes. But he loves the boys.

"And he wants to be a part of that, be that team man not just on the field but off the field. He's grown up in rugby league through a couple of different eras and he's enjoyed his time.

"I know Cooper doesn't let everybody see that part. But everybody that's been a part of Cooper's world has seen that. And that's why he's so loved."

Cronk knows full well it could have gone pear-shaped when he shifted north 18 months ago.

Cooper Cronk and Jason Taumalolo were joint winners of the Dally M Medal in 2016.
Cooper Cronk and Jason Taumalolo were joint winners of the Dally M Medal in 2016.

The Roosters shuffled Mitchell Pearce out to make it so.

Co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend were put in an invidious position – in the coldest terms, their premiership-winning No.7 and great mate was deemed unable to deliver and was therefore replaceable.

"Everything could've gone wrong," Cronk said.

"There are a lot of examples of current day and past [players], had big decisions of coming into a new club and it hasn't worked.

"The reason this worked wasn't because of me. It was because of the type of personalities that are here in this joint.

"The previous guy that was here formed a very, very close bond with the majority of the guys here.

"I wasn't ever going to be a replacement for that. But I'm pretty proud that I can call these guys really good mates.

"... If we didn't form that bond, I doubt we would've been successful last year. And I definitely wouldn't be here today."

Cronk is still here for another four months.

I don't think anyone has got more out of themselves than Cooper in our game.

Trent Robinson

Calling quits after last year's grand final, with a horrifically busted shoulder and premiership duly delivered, was simply not an option. He had given a two-year commitment to the Roosters.

The first steps in Cronk's recovery ranked as "probably the most difficult" he's taken, but with more to come.

"If anyone thought I worked hard for the past 15 years, come and watch me train from Monday to Friday for the next 20 weeks," Cronk said.

"I guarantee I will be doing everything I possibly can to make some guys share in moments, milestones and achievements the pleasure I've had."

That was put to Robinson too. Slater and Smith are worthy Immortals in-waiting.

But what of Cronk's moments, milestones and achievements?

357 NRL games, five premierships, another three grand final appearances, 38 Tests, 22 Origins, two Dally M medals, a Golden Boot and a Clive Churchill Medal?

"Cooper's the greatest player in our game with the strengths that he came into the game with, worked on and evolved," Robinson said.

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"That's my view. I'm biased, but I don't think anyone has got more out of themselves than Cooper in our game.

"Then you list these achievements and he played in some really good teams.

"But there was a constant within that team. And that was Cooper.

"… We play a team sport. What's your role in a team sport and has anyone embodied that more than Cooper Cronk?"

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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