The build-up to Sunday's NRL Grand Final was dominated by two stars of the game. Melbourne's Billy Slater was allowed to play but only after a disciplinary hearing cleared him of a shoulder charge in the semi-final while Cooper Cronk, the Roosters' former Melbourne half-back, was a huge topic of conversation.

The build-up

During the Roosters semi-final against old rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs, it was clear that Cronk was carrying a serious arm injury, his left arm hanging almost limply at his side. Such was the severity of the injury, his participation in the Grand Final was called into question. Throughout the week, the Sydney team refused to reveal what was happening with their star pivot, recruited ahead of their 2018 NRL campaign with the intention of reaching - and winning - the Grand Final.

They played down the injury and even named back-rower Mitchell Aubusson in the number seven jersey when revealing their preliminary squad. Upon arriving at the stadium, the 34-year-old was reluctant to even high-five waiting youngsters. However, much to everybody's surprise, the former Australian international was named in the starting thirteen.

The match

Named in the thirteen, Cronk was barely anything more than a spectator. His fellow halfback Luke Keary dominated the play for the Roosters with the experienced star instead essentially an on-field coach. A player who starred for so long alongside the incredible talents of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater in Melbourne purple, who better to know what the Storm would be trying to do, where they wanted to be and when they wanted to be there than a man who directed their play for over a decade? The suggestion was there that he was an on-field coach and he played the part of a decoy for much of the game, often lurking on the short side to draw the attention of the Melbourne defenders.

Incredibly, when the Storm attack did manage to locate the seriously injured Cronk during the match, he certainly didn't shy away from the tackles and did what was required to win the trophy - the exact thing he was brought to the club to do.

The aftermath

It wasn't until after the match the club made the general public aware of the 38-time Australian international's injury - essentially a broken shoulder blade, not the torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that Trent Robinson and Co. announced to the press in the week.

It was certainly a move which would have affected Melbourne's preparations, perhaps even confusing them. The Roosters, outsiders for the Grand Final against the Storm, were able to lift the trophy with Cronk's serious injury just becoming another one of the great stories of NRL Grand Finals.

An immortal in waiting, Cronk demonstrated the incredible bravery so often seen in Rugby league players - and received the prize his heroics deserved.