Star Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk has shocked the rugby league community by announcing he will leave the club at the end of the 2017 season after being granted a release.
The decision will see Brisbane-born Cronk move to Sydney, where his fiancee, Tara Rushton, is based.
“Melbourne Storm has been everything to me since moving down here from Brisbane as a kid back in 2003,” Cronk said.
“The club has helped me grow into the person I am today and I will be forever grateful to Craig [Bellamy, Melbourne coach], the coaches, my teammates and everyone associated with this great club for making it such a special place to be a part of.
“I will always be a Melbourne Storm person.
“To our incredible members and fans, we have shared so many special moments together over the years and I promise you I will be doing everything I can to make 2017 a season we will never forget.”
Cronk had recently penned a two-year, $2 million extension with the Storm that would have seen him end his career in Melbourne, however the news now raises the possibility that he will finish his career with a Sydney-based club.
Should Cronk, who has played 306 games in 15 seasons with the Storm, switch sides, he will become the first player in the history of rugby league to change clubs after playing over 300 games with the one team.
However, it is not a yet a certainty that Cronk will be pulling on the jersey of a Sydney-based club, with the star halfback saying he doesn’t know what next year holds for him yet.
Cronk refused to put a timeline on when he will make a decision on his playing career in 2018.
Despite his age – he is currently 33 – Cronk remains one of the finest players in the NRL, and was the joint recipient of last year’s Dally M medal alongside Jason Taumalolo.
The 2016 award was just the latest accolade in an impressive resume for Cronk, who had taken home the medal once before. He was also named the Clive Churchill medallist in 2012, and was named the Dally M halfback of the year five times.
Cronk has been an integral part of the Storm’s success over the past decade, forming a ‘Big Three’ alongside skipper and hooker Cameron Smith and superstar fullback Billy Slater.
While he did not put a timeframe on making a decision for 2018, there are sure to be a host of clubs interested in luring Cronk for next year, with the likes of the Wests Tigers and Canterbury Bulldogs both already mentioned as potential suitors for the halfback.