'Forever in its debt': Cooper Cronk ends speculation with retirement announcement

Champion halfback Cooper Cronk has announced he will retire from the NRL at the end of the 2019 season.

The 35-year-old is in the second and final year of his contract with the Sydney Roosters and will draw the curtain on a 16-year career.

“It’s been one hell of a ride,” Cronk said at a press conference on Monday.

“I’ve got a lot of people to thank, coaches, sponsors, supporters, media, commentators.

“The game wouldn’t exist without them.

“The game cops it whacks every now and again but it has an ability to transform lives. I am forever in its debt.”

Cooper Cronk. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Classy nod

Cronk thanked his former Storm teammates Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, despite ongoing rumours of a feud with the latter.

“Billy and Cameron. I don’t think thanks cuts it to be honest,” he said.

“Those two guys will go down in history. That probably makes me the best third wheel ever seen.

“My job was pretty easy. A future Immortal would pass the ball to me and I’d pass it on to another future Immortal.

“I’ll be forever grateful of those two guys.”

Cronk will be remembered as one of the game’s greatest playmakers after a career including 22 State of Origin appearances for Queensland and 38 Tests for Australia.

Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater in 2017. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

He began his career at Melbourne where he played in seven grand finals for four wins, although the Storm’s 2007 and 2009 titles were later stripped for salary cap cheating.

He wrote himself into Roosters folklore when he last year played through the pain of a broken shoulder blade to lead the Tri-Colours to a grand final victory over the Storm.

He has played 357 first-grade matches and earlier this month jumped Darren Lockyer into second on the NRL’s all-time appearance list.

with AAP