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Cooper Cronk wins Dally M in close finish

Cooper Cronk

Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk has secured his first Dally M Medal in one of the closest finishes in the award's history.
Cooper Cronk wins Dally M in close finish
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, Oct 1 AAP - Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk has secured his first Dally M Medal in one of the closest finishes in the award's history.

In a thrilling result, Cronk finished on 28 votes, just two ahead of fellow playmakers Daly Cherry-Evans, Johnathan Thurston and Todd Carney, who all tied for second on rugby league's night of nights in Sydney.

Russell Crowe added some star power to the event, with the actor and South Sydney owner using his Academy Award experience to humorously smooth over some technical problems and count down to Cronk's dramatic win.

Cronk, the Storm, Queensland and Kangaroos general, needed the two votes he earned in Melbourne's final-round golden point win over the Gold Coast to clinch a personal milestone which sits nicely alongside his 2012 premiership.

Melbourne dropped out of the NRL finals in straight sets at the hands of South Sydney and Newcastle this year, prompting critics to declare the reign of the Storm's "big three" was coming to an end.

However, at 29 years old, Cronk upset favourites Thurston and Cherry-Evans to be crowned with the game's highest honour and indicate he's still at the top of his game.

Cronk is the third Storm player to win the Dally M, after Billy Slater in 2011 and Cameron Smith in 2006.

Smith once again featured heavily at the Dally Ms, named hooker of the year, captain and representative player of the year.

In a thrilling countdown to the main prize, Cronk shared the lead with Carney after the penultimate round 25 voting.

But Thurston and Cherry-Evans both earned two votes each in the last round of the regular season and the voting, to also be on 26 points.

In the end, Cronk's match-winning field goal in the 88th minute of the Storm's Saturday night win over the Titans at AAMI Park got him over the line.

Cronk's Maroons halves partner Thurston went within a whisker of joining Immortal Andrew Johns as a three-time winner of the award.

Cronulla five-eighth Carney was desperately unlucky to miss out on his second Dally M, with a hamstring injury robbing him the chance to poll in the last two weeks of the competition - including a round 26 Sharks win over Canberra.

Sea Eagles grand final halfback Cherry-Evans was hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Manly No.7 Matt Orford, who won the Dally M and the premiership back in 2008.

Other than centre of the year Jamie Lyon, Manly were absent from the awards.

However, minor premiers and fellow grand finalists the Roosters were duly rewarded for their stellar season.

As expected, rookie mentor Trent Robinson took out the Dally M coach of the year award, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (wing) and Boyd Cordner (second row) were named in the team of the year.

Boom South Sydney prop George Burgess won the rookie of the year award and fellow Rabbitoh Greg Inglis was rewarded for his dominant season, receiving the Provan-Summons Medal as the best player in the game as voted by the fans.

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