Melbourne Storm's 'Big Three' deliver one more trademark moment in grand final win over Cowboys

Melbourne Storm's 'Big Three' deliver one more trademark moment in grand final win over Cowboys

Melbourne Storm's 'Big Three' deliver one more trademark moment in grand final win over Cowboys

Updated 2 October 2017, 7:25 AEDT

There aren't many times in professional sport where it's safe to say never, but we will never see a combination like Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith again.

The 'Big Three' era officially ended tonight and it could not have been more perfect.

Melbourne was the best team all season, but its finals run was lacklustre to say the least.

Luckily for the Storm, less so for the Cowboys, the precision and execution returned at just the right time to coast to the premiership.

And of course it was on the back of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

Slater wrapped up his second Clive Churchill Medal, but it could have just as easily gone to his skipper or his half-back, who both controlled the biggest game of the year like the puppeteers they are.

And they know exactly what they mean to the league. They know that people want to see all three of them at full flight and in close proximity.

That's why, with the game already in the bag in the 73rd minute, they delivered a fan-favourite Storm special that perfectly utilises Smith's savviness, Cronk ball-playing and Slater's explosiveness.

There are a few variations of it, but this time Smith popped a ball to Cronk at first receiver and temporarily played dumb before reactivating to receive the return ball, which was then handed off to a looming Slater to scythe through an over-committed and confused defence that doesn't really have a fighting chance.

It led directly to the final try of the game, which ended the season and this trio's 17 years together fittingly.

Never before have we seen a trio of players like this but, more importantly we'll never see it again.

Not only are they completely complementary players in the most important positions on the park, there are also umpteen other variables that are entirely impossible to replicate.

To have three blokes born within 100 kilometres of each other, two of them within an hour of one another. Then one of them moves the entire length of the state away but they still ultimately somehow end up at the same Brisbane feeder club at the same time.

Then, after all getting picked up by the same first-grade club, they need to have the sort of confidence required of elite athletes but also exhibit enough humility to not seek greener pastures at a club where they can be 'the guy'.

So, if all those pieces fall into place again and these hypothetical players stick together for the almost two decades required to have a nearly psychic bond with one another — all under one of the best coaches in history — maybe we'll get a repeat.

But, in reality, we've seen the end of something glorious and wholly unique.

Now the questions are inevitably being asked about the future.

Smith looks exactly the same as he did in that famous Norths photo featuring his now-famous pair of offsiders and seems ready to play until he's 60, but the others remain non-committal.


Heading into his mid-30s, we still don't know if Slater will play on after an improbably resurgent season, but injuries are going to start taking a toll on his famed athleticism, so he can only go for so long.

Meanwhile, Cronk is Sydney-bound but not committed to a club.

Honestly, it would be almost too weird to see Smith crunch Cronk after a bomb or see Slater being toyed with by the number seven's near-perfect kicking game.

Let's hope it ends as poetically as it deserves to — with these three as champions in their own right, but on another level as a unit.