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Cooper Cronk wins Dally M Medal

Cooper Cronk with the Dally M Medal. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP Image
Melbourne Storm's Cooper Cronk has secured his first Dally M Medal in one of the closest finishes in the award's history.

Cronk finished on 28 votes, just two ahead of Daly Cherry-Evans, Johnathan Thurston and Todd Carney, who all tied for second.

Russell Crowe added some star power to the event, with the actor and South Sydney owner using his Oscars experience to smooth over some technical problems and count down to Cronk's dramatic win.

Cronk needed the two votes he earned in Melbourne's final-round golden point win over the Gold Coast to clinch a personal milestone which sits nicely alongside his 2012 premiership.

The 29-year-old said he was humbled. "We all like to say we're in control of things, but Russell was doing a pretty good job of building it up," Cronk said.

"Once it got to four tied at the top I thought that was the result but fortunately it went my way and here we are.

"I'm absolutely humbled. To be named alongside Dally Messenger who is an icon figure of our game, a pioneer, the reason why we play the game – I'm just really humbled by the moment and pretty taken back at the moment."
Melbourne dropped out of the NRL finals at the hands of South Sydney and Newcastle this year, prompting critics to declare the reign of the Storm's "big three" was coming to an end.

However, Cronk upset favourites Thurston and Cherry-Evans to be crowned with the Australian game's highest honour and indicate he's still at the top of his game. Cronk is the third Storm player to win the Dally M, after Billy Slater in 2011 and Cameron Smith in 2006.

In a thrilling countdown to the main prize, Cronk shared the lead with Carney after the penultimate round 25 voting but Thurston and Cherry-Evans both earned two votes each in the last round of the regular season and the voting, to also be on 26 points.

In the end, Cronk's match-winning field goal in the 88th minute of the Storm's Saturday night win over the Titans at AAMI Park got him over the line.

Other than centre of the year Jamie Lyon, Manly were absent from the awards. However, minor premiers and fellow grand finalists the Roosters were duly rewarded for their stellar season.

As expected, Trent Robinson took out the Dally M coach of the year award, however, Sonny Bill Williams was a shock omission from the leaderboard, nowhere to be seen in the top 10 and ousted by team-mate Boyd Cordner for second rower of the year. The South Sydney prop George Burgess won the rookie of the year award.

The Guardian
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