Playing his 300th NRL game, Melbourne’s Cooper Cronk didn’t want the spotlight in the preliminary final against Canberra to be on him.
But a dominant first half at AAMI Park meant Cronk was front and centre.
The Storm halfback became just the 25th player to reach the milestone and led his team on to their home ground, with the 30m line marks on either side of halfway changed to 300 in his honour.
With a reputation for delivering when the pressure is on, Cronk did just that.
He opened with a 40m run after scooping up a grubber kick by his Raiders opposite Aidan Sezer, who was forced to turn and chase him down.
Cronk then scored Melbourne’s first try in the 32nd minute when he ran on to a Cameron Smith ball out of dummy half and dived across the line.
It was a special moment with the pair the first 300-gamers to play in the same line-up.
Players from both teams raced in as tensions boiled over but the ever-cool Cronk called his teammates away and led them downfield to address them in a huddle as Smith kicked the conversion.
That gave the Storm an 8-6 lead to the delight of the mostly pro-Melbourne crowd of 28,261.
They had more reason to celebrate with the home side holding on to win 14-12 after a thrilling second half to book a grand final berth and give Cronk another chance to star again.
“These chances don’t come around too often,” Cronk told the Nine Network after the preliminary final.
“It makes you proud to play rugby league for a living.
“It’s great to celebrate 300; we’ve got some hard work this week and 301 will be a bit of a celebration too, hopefully.”