'Hell of a ride' - Aussie league great Cronk to retire

Sydney (AFP) –


Australian Test back Cooper Cronk announced Monday his intention to retire from rugby league at the end of the season, bringing the curtain down on a long and glittering career.

The 35-year-old, in the second and final year of his contract with the Sydney Roosters, said it had been "one hell of a ride".

"One that I never thought was possible growing up as a young kid 20 minutes south of Brisbane," he said.

"So, you know, I've got a lot of people to thank. The Roosters, the Melbourne Storm, and obviously my family."

Cronk spent 14 seasons with Melbourne before moving to Sydney for family reasons in 2017, winning premierships at both clubs.

A legend at the Storm, he also went down in Roosters' folklore by playing through a broken shoulder blade to lead then to a grand final win over Melbourne last year.

Widely rated as one of the modern-day greats, Cronk is the most experienced half in National Rugby League history with 357 appearances.

He also won 38 caps for Australia and appeared in 22 State of Origin clashes between Queensland and New South Wales, while twice winning the Dally M Medal, awarded to the best and fairest player in the NRL.

Cronk paid particular tribute to Melbourne Storm and long-time teammates Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.

"Those two guys will go down as the best two players in their position. That makes me the best third wheel the game's ever seen because I just jumped off the back of them," he said.

"I'll be forever grateful for what those two guys did for me on and off the field. I'm pleased and humbled my name gets mentioned in the same breath as those two."

Slater and Smith both announced their retirement last year.

Cronk is expected to remain with the Roosters in a mentoring role.