NRL: Cooper Cronk set to join Sydney club

Cooper Cronk will seek to join a Sydney club after reportedly deciding to leave Melbourne at the end of the NRL season. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
Cooper Cronk will seek to join a Sydney club after reportedly deciding to leave Melbourne at the end of the NRL season. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Cooper Cronk has always done things differently.

So it didn't come as a surprise when the Melbourne halfback announced he would quit the club for love after 14 NRL seasons at the Storm.

Due to marry television presenter Tara Rushton at the end of the season, the Test halfback said he was spending all his spare time in Sydney, which is where his heart now was.

"I get on a plane every other spare minute in Melbourne and it's getting harder to get back on that plane to come back so in the best interest of this football club it's the right decision at the right time," said an emotional Cronk, flanked by Storm coach Craig Bellamy and chief executive Dave Donaghy.

He wants a family as well as football and with the Storm he can't have both, but in Sydney he can.

"I feel like I'm one of the luckiest players to have played the game - to have the things that have happened to me collectively and as an individual but sometimes there's more to life than football," Cronk said.

"I'm jealous of the guys who have their families here, that have their football and loved ones in the same city."

In 2016, Rushton encouraged Cronk to sign a contract extension with Melbourne to remain a one-club player, but he put in an exit clause after one year in case his feelings changed.

The 33-year-old said it was time to put someone else first.

"We've had thousands of discussions about the possibilities," Cronk said.

"She's (Tara) worked really hard to get where she is and I'm not about to ask her or force her to give up what she's worked so hard for.

"I think I'm in the position to sacrifice and I'm more than willing to do that for our relationship."

Bellamy said he was shocked that Cronk would choose to walk away, but understood his predicament.

"You know it's going to be happening as these guys aren't getting younger but when Cooper told me I was still a bit surprised.

"The contribution that he's made to this club over a long time, we've got to be very sympathetic to that."

While NRL number crunchers in Sydney got to work on how to lure one of the game's best-ever halfbacks, Cronk said he hadn't really thought about facing Melbourne and admitted he wrestled with retiring altogether.

It's not just the club that he's leaving but some of his best mates, including Storm skipper Cameron Smith.

Their history goes back to teenage years, when Smith would drive the unlicensed Cronk to training at Brisbane Norths.

"I feel physically and mentally able to play for another couple of years but there's a lot to weigh up," Cronk said.

"There's my attachment to this football club for one thing; the other thing is once you're retired you're a long time retired.

"I don't have a timeline to make that decision."

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