We’re not going to blow this because of me.
That was the message from Cooper Cronk as Melbourne brace for a whirlwind of emotion and hype in the lead-up to next Sunday’s NRL grand final.
After disposing of Brisbane 30-0 on Friday night, the minor premiers are 80 minutes away from sending out departing star Cronk with a fairytale title win.
The Storm have dropped just four of 26 matches this year and will head into the season decider as the overwhelming favourites.
Cronk will run out for his seventh grand final at ANZ Stadium, the first to achieve the feat since Brisbane great and Queensland coach Kevin Walters.
So much of the build-up will centre around the Storm, Queensland and Australian halfback, and whether he will retire after the match or play on with a Sydney-based club next year.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Cronk said when asked if he will retire after the grand final.
“The whole point is I’m going to try and do everything for this footy team to have a memorable 2017.
“Once it’s all done and dusted, I’ll be a bit emotional about it all. But at some stage between then and, hopefully, a World Cup, there’ll be a decision made.”
After 323 first-grade games for the Storm, Cronk will be remembered as one of their all-time greats.
With champion fullback Billy Slater also contemplating retirement, the Storm will have no shortage of motivation.
Wary of his teammates getting caught up in the emotion of his last game in a purple jumper, Cronk implored them not to make it about him.
The Storm were pushed all the way by Parramatta in their week-one finals victory and afterwards coach Craig Bellamy said they suffered nerves as skipper Cameron Smith broke Darren Lockyer’s all-time most games record.
Asked if he was worried his final game could affect him and his teammates, Cronk said: “Not at all.
“There’s been a few distractions this year. The one thing that no matter the distraction, no matter the storyline, no matter the subplot to this week, it all comes down to the performance on Sunday night.
“That won’t change no matter the headlines written about me or anyone else. It’s not about the individual, it’s about this team, it’s about this footy club, it’s about how you can be at your best on Sunday night.”