From 2006, the Melbourne Storm have been the dominant force in the NRL. The reigning Premiers have won a remarkable five Grand Finals in the last 15 years and it arguably could’ve been more.
It’s no surprise that the Storm won so much in those 15 years when you consider the core of that side. At hooker Cameron Smith led the team around, at the back Billy Slater tore defences apart with speed and smarts whilst Cooper Cronk provided attacking flair and command in the halves.
Cronk was arguably the most underrated of the three and when he left for Sydney, he would guide the Roosters to Grand Final glory against the Storm in 2018. That was just one of the few examples in which the Storm have come up short in their decade and a half of dominance however.
Often the Storm have failed to go all the way even in their best seasons. Even in 2006 after finishing top they came up short in the Grand Final as Brisbane were crowned Premiers. Ten years later they lost the Grand Final to Cronulla and did so in 2008 at the hands of Manly in a humbling defeat that no one associated with the Sea Eagles will ever forget.
2011 was another season in which they were expected to come away with the Premiership and didn’t. The Storm finished top and beat eighth place Newcastle in the opening week of the finals but a fortnight later they were soundly beaten by a New Zealand Warriors side inspired by Shaun Johnson.
It was a real shock to the system for the Storm as they watched the underdogs, the sixth-placed Warriors, take their place in the Grand Final. It’s no surprise that a year later the Storm came back stronger and claimed the trophy for themselves but it’s still a defeat that lives in the memory of Cronk and those who sat bewildered by the game they were watching 10 years ago.
In a recent interview with Fox League on The Matty Johns Podcast, Cronk was asked about what went wrong that day and he had a hilarious response.
Johns asked the former Melbourne number seven: “I remember times watching you blokes play in Grand Final qualifiers and there was one against the New Zealand Warriors where I thought ‘Melbourne have got this.’ You were rested, you were going to win, and you just got rolled. Why did you get rolled?”
Cronk responded by praising his opposite number in the shape of Johnson: “We got rolled because I took a show from Shaun Johnson. He turned me inside and out, there we go, that’s why.”
Johns certainly revelled in forcing Cronk to admit he was outdone claiming that they were going to end the show on that note.
Cooper Cronk on why the Storm got 'rolled' in the 2011 qualifier 😂 pic.twitter.com/k9H3LixebF
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) September 15, 2021
Cronk, despite that one off day, will always be remembered for the success he brought to both the Storm and the Roosters and should be regarded as one of the best halves to ever play the game.
If you want to relive the famous semi-final you can watch it here: