Cronk to join rare club with Dally M win
Photo Source: AAP
Cooper Cronk's historic week could continue on Wednesday night with the Melbourne star headlining a strong contingent of players for the Dally M medal.
Just four days after joining the rare 300-game club, the Storm halfback can become only the eighth player to claim the game's highest gong on multiple occasions at The Star in Sydney.
However the Queensland and Australian No.7 faces stiff opposition from teammate Cameron Smith, as well as Canberra's Josh Hodgson and North Queensland's Jason Taumalolo.
Cronk, Smith and Taumalolo, together with Gold Coast prop Ryan James, were all locked on 16 points when voting went behind closed doors at the end of round 16.
Hodgson, who would be the first Englishman to win the award, was two points behind but will be stripped of points for a one-week suspension in round 23.
But it might not have even be enough to stop a vintage Cronk, who set up 29 tries, had 22 line breaks and scored 12 tries himself on his way to leading his teammates to a grand final.
The Storm lost only two games from round 17 onwards.
A win would add to his 2013 gong, joining Peter Sterling, Mick Potter, Gavin Miller, Cliff Lyons, Andrew Johns, Johnathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne as multiple winners.
Reigning Dally M winner Thurston won the medal a record fourth time last year.
A win for Smith, Hodgson or Taumalolo would be the first time a forward has claimed the award since the Storm skipper took out the medal for his first honour in 2006.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, Titans counterpart Neil Henry and the Raiders' Ricky Stuart are all in contention to win the coach of the year award.
Stuart's reborn Raiders could feature up to four players in the team of the year, with Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua, Josh Papalii and Hodgson in line for positional prizes.
Stuart has been praised for leading Canberra to their first preliminary final in almost 20 years, while Henry has also been credited for pushing an underrated Titans team to the finals.
Flanagan's Sharks will contend for a maiden grand final, just two years after the club was brought to its knees during the ASADA scandal in 2013-14.
Gold Coast youngster Ashley Taylor is the raging favourite to beat out Penrith teenager Nathan Cleary as rookie of the year.
WHEN DALLY M VOTING WENT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
16 points - Cooper Cronk (Storm), Ryan James (Titans), Cameron Smith (Storm), Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)
14 points - Josh Hodgson (Raiders), Corey Norman (Eels), Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
13 points - Michael Ennis (Sharks), Darius Boyd (Broncos)
12 points - Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)