Melbourne StormÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s outstanding trio of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk ultimately turned out to be the difference in the race for the 2017 NRL Premiership, with the creative cog of Craig BellamyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side providing Storm with the structure to blitz the regular season before sweeping aside the North Queensland Cowboys 32-6 in the NRL Grand Final in early October.
Smith, Slater and Cronk were outstanding on that evening at the ANZ Stadium, with the trioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attacking play on occasion breathtaking. Mal Meninga will be hoping that his Melbourne trio can guide the Australian national team to another World Cup trophy later in 2017, and after a magnificent start against England, the signs were promising.
However, shortly after AustraliaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opening fixture of the World Cup it was announced that Cronk, MelbourneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s long-serving number sevenÃ‚Â would not be retiring as had been initially reported. Instead, the 33-year-old would be linking up with the Sydney Roosters on a lucrative two-year deal.
— Sydney Roosters (@sydneyroosters) October 30, 2017
CronkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s move has been criticised by certain people within the NRL, with ex-Sydney Rooster, Willie Mason, citing the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s short-sightedness with regard to the veteranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s age. However, there are plenty of positives with CronkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrival, with the Australian half bringing plenty of experience to the Roosters. Last season, Sydney finished the regular season second only to CronkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Melbourne, but could not put together a run to reach the Grand Final.
Melbourne are priced at $6.00 in the rugby league betting markets to defend their title in 2018, with Sydney favourites to win their first Premier since 2013 with Australian half, Cronk, in their ranks.
Cronk was extremely impressive during the 2017 campaign, and will almost certainly have a positive impact on his new colleagues. Doubts have been raised about the 33-year-oldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability without Smith and Slater in the same XIII, but his creativity should still shine through, and plenty of fantasy league players will be keen to include a player that scored six tries and assisted a further 16 in his 22 appearances last season.
What Cronk isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a running half, he will not provide metres or many offloads, but what he will provide is incredible game organisation and creativity, with his ability to bring players into the game among the best the NRL has ever seen. Whilst Cronk has never been in the shadow of Smith or Slater, his move to Sydney could prove to be the moment any of his doubters are proved wrong and the world realises what an exceptional talent Cronk is.
The way Cronk was appreciated at Melbourne was special, and seeing the tributes pour in for the half-back was special. Smith, Slater and everybody associated with Melbourne are sure to miss Cronk next season, particularly when you consider the impact he continues to have, both domestically and internationally on the biggest stage. Last season, Sydney Roosters were the team that rivalled Melbourne in the race for silverware, despite not reaching the Grand Final. CronkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s transfer could well spell the beginning on a switch in momentum in the NRL Ã¢â‚¬â€œ albeit a temporary one.