CHAMPION Storm halfback Cooper Cronk isn't retiring and instead will become the hottest player on the open market after a bombshell announcement that he's leaving Melbourne for Sydney next year.
The two-time Dally M Medal winner will end 14 years of service for Melbourne at the end of this season, bound for Sydney to live with fiancee and Fox Sports presenter Tara Rushton while almost certainly playing for a Sydney-based NRL club.
Cronk has the potential to become the highest-paid player in the NRL next year, with the Test playmaker capable of earning close to $1.5 million a season.
The announcement will force almost every Sydney club to reassess their recruitment and retention plans for 2018, aware that a player of Cronk's credentials could single-handidly transform their side.
In the delicate process of determining the future of their own halves, the Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Canterbury would undoubtedly be interested in Cronk's bold move north.
The decision will also have huge ramifications for the Storm's big three, including Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
The 33-year-old's decision will start a countdown to the end of the most dominant fullback, halfback, hooker combination in the history of the game.
Cronk's guiding hand to lead the Storm to victory over Penrith last weekend meant he moved to third highest for wins in first grade with 214 from 306 games.
Smith passed Darren Lockyer in the same game to notch the most wins of all time by a player with 238.
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