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End of ‘big three’ no guarantee Australian league dominance will end

The era of Cronk, Smith and Slater may be over, but Australia’s past and current talent spells trouble for England and NSW

And then there were two. Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the epic 2017 tournament – which saw Australia edge out an incredibly committed and brave England by a mere six points – was not only the revival of international rugby league as a viable concept, but the representative retirement of Cooper Cronk. It was not entirely unexpected, but still the end of something special. With full-time sounding at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, the ‘big three’ are no more.

Since they were spotty teenagers coming through the ranks at the Norths Devils in the Queensland Cup competition at the turn of the century, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cronk have been joined at the hip. This much-vaunted troika have played close to 400 NRL, Origin and Test games together as perhaps the most valuable one-to-three-punch in rugby league history. Spines have never been as slick or successful as this. Glory for the Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australia has consistently followed the trio around.

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