Melbourne fullback Billy Slater has conceded Cooper Cronk could be on the verge of his final NRL pre-season at the Storm.
The Queensland and Australia halfback is off-contract at the end of 2016, and Slater has admitted `the big three’ of himself, Cronk and Cameron Smith could finally be broken up after 12 years together.
“Who knows what Cooper is going to do,” Slater told News Corp Australia.
“I was in Cooper’s position this time last year and I didn’t finalise my contract until August. It won’t be a distraction…. he’ll make the right decision.”
Cronk, 32, battled a knee injury in 2015 and also had off-season surgery on a problematic hip.
He would likely attract big money from rival clubs, however given he will be 33 by the beginning of the 2017 season, the 277-game veteran could consider a move to the English Super League.
“But the good thing about not just our team, but all teams, is everyone is replaceable,” Slater said.
“There’s always kids coming through who might take a couple of years to develop.
“It took older players (leaving) for us to get an opportunity. It’s not the end of the world when things do happen.”
Melbourne have exposed playmaker Ben Hampton to the top grade in recent years, with the 23-year-old playing 16 NRL games since making his debut in 2013.
Other option for the Storm if Cronk moves on are under-20s halfback Jake Turpin, who has represented Queensland at a junior level and Mack Mason who has also had success in rugby union as a youngster.