Cronk wins Churchill Medal in grand final

RUSSELL JACKSON
Last updated 22:55 30/09/2012

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Melbourne's Clive Churchill medallist Cooper Cronk and coach Craig Bellamy were all smiles after their NRL grand final win but they weren't seeing eye-to-eye a few months ago.

Bellamy revealed he and Cronk had a fiery exchange of words during the Storm's five-game losing run, which ended with an emphatic 46-6 win over Penrith in August.

The clash between the coach and his star playmaker helped spark a season turnaround for Melbourne which ended with an NRL title at ANZ Stadium.

Bellamy credited Cronk as the main reason for the Storm's form reversal.

Cronk starred for Melbourne in the 14-4 win over Canterbury on Sunday and walked away with the Clive Churchill man-of-the-match medal on the back of a brilliant first half effort, where he had a hand in two Melbourne tries.

"I said to him out there after the game that he was the main guy that turned us around after those losses," Bellamy said.

"I probably shouldn't say this but he was a real big part of our five losses ... I said that to him but he turned it around ... He had a bit of a shot at me, just a one-on-one.

"He was the main guy that turned us around and from then he's come on in leaps and bounds."

Cronk was at his best in the 33rd minute when he double pumped before passing short to a flying Billy Slater to crash over for the Storm.

Then on the stroke of halftime, the No.7 produced a lovely cross-field kick for leaping winger Justin O'Neill, who scored in the corner.

"He controlled that game tremendous. His kicking game in that first half was as good a kicking game as I've seen in a grand final," Bellamy said.

The Clive Churchill medal capped a wonderful season for Cronk, who played an integral part in Queensland's seventh-straight State of Origin victory.

"It's a prestigious award and a high accolade in the game but I'm just more proud of the fact I'm a member of this football team," Cronk said.

"To be a member of this club and play with true friends is an honour and I'm very proud to sit here with a smile on my face."

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