Cronk to leave Melbourne Storm at season's end

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Melbourne Storm have been rocked by news that star half-back and Dally M Medallist Cooper Cronk will leave the NRL giants at the end of the season.

Cronk dropped the bombshell five rounds into the campaign on Tuesday, announcing his intention to return home to Sydney after 15 seasons with the Storm, despite signing a contract extension in 2016.

The 33-year-old Queensland and Australia star looked set to retire as a one-club player after inking a two-year deal running through to next year.

Cronk is one of rugby league's greatest players, having twice won the Dally M Medal as well as the Clive Churchill Medal in 2012 after the Storm won the NRL premiership.

The five-time Half-back of the Year, who also won the 2016 Golden Boot, has made 306 appearances for the Storm - second on the club's all-time list behind captain Cameron Smith.

"To [fiancée] Tara [Rushton] and my family, thank you for your patience. Obviously if it was a football decision, I'd be staying here," Cronk said during a news conference.

"There's a few things in life that are more important than footy, and that's pretty much the reason. It's time I put someone else and something else first.

"I'm jealous of the guys who have their families here ... and it's time for me to try and prioritise my time and my future."

In a statement prior to the news conference, Cronk said: "Melbourne Storm has been everything to me since moving down here from Brisbane as a kid back in 2003.

"The club has helped me grow into the person I am today and I will be forever grateful to Craig [Bellamy], the coaches, my team-mates and everyone associated with this great club for making it such a special place to be a part of. I will always be a Melbourne Storm person."

"To our incredible members and fans, we have shared so many special moments together over the years and I promise you I will be doing everything I can to make 2017 a season we will never forget."

"What I do next year is up in the air ... I've been wrestling with the decision of playing on or not playing on."

Storm head coach Craig Bellamy, whose Storm have won all five of their opening games, added: "With Tara in Sydney, it makes it really hard for him. I can see where he is coming from. It gives us time to plan for next year."