Cronk's stunning praise for Storm's real Big Three

Cooper Cronk has shown the qualities of a true champion with an incredibly humble and heartwarming farewell speech at the club's end-of-season awards night.

Cronk's stunning praise for Storm's real Big Three

Cronk's stunning praise for Storm's real Big Three

Their was barely a dry eye in the room as the departing star got up on stage to thank his teammates, coach and all the club's supporters following Sunday's 34-6 win over the Cowboys in the NRL Grand Final.

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The champion halfback, part of Melbourne's famed Big Three which also includes skipper Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, is yet to announce whether he will play on in 2018.

The Big Three signed off in style. Image: Getty

But the Storm, Queensland and Kangaroos great, regarded as one of the finest halfbacks of his generation, said his colleagues deserved to take the credit for the club's prolonged period of success.

"How do I break up the next couple of people," Cronk began by asking.

"Craig (Bellamy), Cam (Smith) and Billy (Slater). Some people call myself, Cam and Billy the Big Three but if you're going to talk about the most influential people at Melbourne Storm, I think those three guys are easily the most influential at the footy club and I’ve just jumped on the back of them for the last 14 years to be honest."

The 33-year-old then went on to pay touching tributes to each of the three men individually, starting with the master coach.

Cronk called Bellamy the biggest influence on his career. Pic: Getty

"Craig sets an agenda or an example of what it takes to be successful but he also has this side of humility that makes you a better person."

"Craig thank you, you’re the biggest influence on my rugby league career. I thank you for the person you are and I wish you all the very best with your ever growing family."

Cronk shared some anecdotes about his long-standing friendships with Smith and Slater, before hinting that their own personal happiness had made a big impact on the halfback's decision to move to Sydney to be with his fiancee.

"The thing that I'm most proud of is not that we've won some competitions or some individual medals or represented our states and our country," Cronk said.

"I'm proud that I've been a part of both of them getting married, both of them having kids, both of them having a life that they can be tremendously proud of."

The club's awards night proved an emotional affair with Bellamy choking back tears in his own wonderful tribute to Cronk.

"What a champion he has been," Bellamy said.

"He's made us all better players and coaches than some would ever dream.

"I'm a better coach, I'm a better person for having worked 15 years with Cooper Cronk.

"What you have done for our players, our coaches, our staff, our game, has been inspirational.

"Whatever happens in the future, we love you dearly. You'll always be a Stormer."

Cronk was named club person of the year, while the Storm also honoured the champion halfback by unveiling the Cooper Cronk medal. This will be awarded annually to the Storm feeder player of the year.

Brodie Croft, who is set to replace Cronk in the line-up next year, became the first to receive the medal.

Skipper Cameron Smith was named Melbourne player of the year for the seventh time, adding the award to the Dally M Medal and hooker of the year title he collected last week.

A testament to his remarkable durability and consistency, the award comes 13 years after winning his first at the Storm.

In other awards on the night, Will Chambers was named best back for the first time, and Jesse Bromwich took out his fourth best forward award.

with AAP

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