Champion halfback Cooper Cronk is to retire from the NRL at the end of the 2019 season.
Cronk, who announced his decision on Monday morning, praised former and current teammates and alluded to a future in commentary.
The 35-year-old is in the second and final year of his contract with the Sydney Roosters and will strive to draw the curtain on a 16-year career by helping the Bondi club defend its 2018 title.
Cronk began in the NRL at Melbourne, where he played seven grand finals for four wins, although the Storm’s 2007 and 2009 premierships were later stripped for salary cap cheating.
Cronk lauded his former club, praising coach Craig Bellamy and stalwarts Billy Slater and Cameron Smith for shaping the club and thanking them for the special moments shared.
“I moved down to Melbourne as an 18, 19-year-old kid, just with an opportunity, and without Melbourne Storm I don’t stand here today,” he said.
“The real big three at Melbourne Storm, it’s probably Craig Bellamy, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
“Billy and Cameron, I don’t think ‘thanks’ cuts it. Those two guys will go down in history as the two best players in their positions, for as long as the game of rugby league is around. That makes me the best third wheel the game has ever seen too.”
After leaving the Storm at the end of 2017, Cronk wrote himself into Roosters folklore when last year playing through the pain of a broken shoulder blade to lead the Tri-Colours to a grand final victory over the Storm.
“There’s a lot of heart, candour, a lot of emotion, selflessness that exists in the Roosters emblem and that’s because of people like [chairman] Nick [Politis] and [coach] Trent [Robinson],” Cronk said.
“I’m very grateful … they allowed me to have the two loves of my life, football and my family, here in Sydney, and we achieved the ultimate thing last year.”
As well as being remembered as one of the game’s greatest playmakers, Cronk enjoyed a prolific representative career that included 22 State of Origin appearances for Queensland and 38 Tests for Australia.
He has played 357 first-grade matches and earlier this month jumped Darren Lockyer into second on the NRL’s all-time appearance list.