The emotional farewell is nothing more than a sweet memory for both Melbourne Storm fans and the man who left the club to finish his career in Sydney alongside his partner.
Cooper Cronk and the Storm had the most mutual of partings, the champion halfback had given years of service to the Craig Bellamy-led juggernaut and he’d earned the right to take up a lucrative deal in Sydney and live with his then-fiance Tara Rushton.
To their credit, the Storm did right by Cronk, letting him out of the final year of his deal and facilitating the move while Cronk put together one more great season at the club and left the perfect parting gift, another NRL Premiership trophy.
Now, as 2018 slowly rolls around, both parties are getting used to a new way of life.
From all reports, Cooper Cronk has settled in well at the Roosters and he looks likely to maintain his high levels of performance without long-time cohorts Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
On the flip-side, the Storm were going to be under some level of scrutiny in how they approached replacing a genuine legend of the game. Brodie Croft was always going to get the first shot at filling Cronk’s boots and in his limited game time he’d looked a fairly decent product, but could stepping up and becoming a key part of a Premiership-challenging spine be a stretch?
Last night the Storm captured their third World Club Challenge title with a comprehensive 38-4 victory over a spirited, but ultimately poor Leeds Rhinos outfit. The man in the number seven jersey played a starring role. As the old saying goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you and while the Rhinos were no match for the blistering Storm, it was Croft who earned the seal of approval from most who tuned in.
The 20-year-old halfback handled every bit of pressure thrown at him as he scored a try and set up five other four-pointers in a romping win.
A comprehensive night
At full-strength, the Storm looked more than a level or two above their opponents, but most pleasing for Melbourne fans around the country would be the ease with which Croft slotted into Bellamy’s highly structured system. Simply put, the Storm didn’t look any less a side without their former international halfback and that’s testament to Craig Bellamy’s coaching ability and the talent and composure Croft possesses.
Another young, prodigious talent from Queensland (sorry Blues fans), Croft looked every bit at home marching his side around the park, setting up a bustling try for prop Jesse Bromwich before sliding over himself and nabbing the four-pointer that broke an early deadlock.
Croft soon assisted star winger Suliasi Vunivalu over the line before he put the hulking Felise Kaufusi through a gaping hole. Soon after he was able to put a perfect cap on his and the team’s performance with a deft kick that handed Will Chambers a tremendous try of his own, and wrapped up a comprehensive win.
A potential injury to Billy Slater was the only real dampener on the night, but as things stand, with the season just around the corner, the emergence of Croft will have reassured Storm fans that the great dynasty should continue into the foreseeable future, much to the chagrin of a few other title contenders around the league.
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