Australia's Nicest, Most Humble Footy Legend Announces Retirement
The man with one of the coolest names in sport will quit at season's end.
Cooper Cronk is in his last four or five months of NRL football.
The NRL legend will call time at the end of 2019 -- which probably means after the NRL Grand Final, the way the Roosters are playing.
The 35-year-old was in typically fine form at his retirement announcement. He thanked everyone, from major figures in his career like Storm coach Craig Bellamy, all the way down to the ball boys.
He also cracked a good joke about his grandmother, who he told of his decision yesterday, and who responded "I thought you would have announced it after you got sin-binned and played poorly on Friday night [in the Roosters' loss to the Broncos]".
"Yeah, thanks, Nan!" Cronk deadpanned.
Cronk has played 360 games thus far in his storied career -- 325 for his original club the Melbourne Storm, and 35 with the Roosters. He has won premierships with both clubs.
He also has 22 Queensland caps, 38 Australian Kangaroos caps, and has claimed pretty much every individual accolade in the game including two Dally M medals, a Clive Churchill medal for best player in the grand final, and rugby league's Golden Boot award, for being the best player in the world.
But it's not only his glittering rugby league CV he'll be remembered for. Cronk, in short, is a good guy. In a sport which sometimes seems short of role models, he is exactly that.
Just two weeks ago, he stayed behind in the dressing rooms after the match against Wests Tigers and cleaned up.
Just under two years ago, he upped and moved to Sydney to be with his partner (now wife) Tara Rushton. Think about that for a minute. Which male sports star can you name who moved cities to follow their heart? It's usually the other way round.
And on the playing field, Cronk was the ultimate team man. He paid special tribute today to his old Storm and Queensland teammates Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
"Those two guys will go down in history as the two best players in history," he said.
"That makes me the best third wheel going round, 'cos I just jumped on the back of what they were doing. I really appreciate the things that they did for me on the field."
Cronk described his old Storm coach and personal mentor Craig Bellamy as one of the people he most respects on the planet, and also saved kind words for current coach Trent Robinson and the Roosters club in general, which he said had a lot more soul than outsiders realise.
He also thanked the women in his life -- who he said had made him the person he is today.
If there's one moment for which Cronk will be forever be celebrated, it's playing and winning the 2018 NRL Grand Final with a fractured shoulder. He was like a chook with a broken wing out there, steering his team around verbally more than physically.
On that day, Cronk's personality counted as much as his physicality, if not more.
And that's the story of his career. It's not what he's done on the field, but who he is that made today's announcement a sad one for a sport that needs genuine heroes.