HE'S arguably the greatest ever footballer to come out of Group Seven Rugby League and now, after 15 years in charge of the Gerringong Lions, Michael Cronin has decided to hang up the clipboard.
During his time at the club, Cronin made 10 grand finals as coach, which led to five premierships - including last year's defeat of Warilla-Lake South at Centenary Field.
Fittingly Cronin, who coached at the Lions between 1987-1989 before returning in 2009 after a stint with Parramatta, ended his tenure with the club on top.
"After 12 straight years in charge, I just thought it was time someone else had a go - after all, I've probably ended a couple of coaching careers in Gerringong during that time," Cronin said.
"Obviously last year's side was special - there were numerous times they could have gotten beat but didn't - but the fact we won the grand final didn't really impact my decision.
"I'd been thinking about it for a while and when it came time for Darryl Hobbs (club president) to put nominations in for 2021, I told him he need not worry about mine.
"Twelve years seems right and you never know, 13 might have been unlucky.
"There's no doubt I'll miss it but I'm at peace with the decision.
"I'll still be around the club and at every game, where I look forward to watching it from the grandstand."
"The club's success over the past 12 years, where we made the semi-finals on 11 occasions, goes back to the players," the 69-year-old, who coached his son Peter to three junior premierships in the under 11s, 13 and 15s, said.
"At the end of the day, a coach is nothing without his players, and I've been fortunate with the individuals I've coached here at Gerringong - you'll be hard-pressed finding a better group of people, who are mostly locals, than these guys.
"Take last year's premiership-winning side, for example, all except two (Matt Winchester and Kayne Brennan) played under 18s at the club, which highlights the culture that we been developed here at the club - which I've been fortunate enough to be a part of for so many years."
Although Cronin, who has Gerringong's home ground and Group Seven's Player of the Year award named after him, has stepped aside, he has made sure the club is in good hands moving forward, with his long-time assistant Scott Stewart taking over.
"Scott, John [Ford] and Daniel Brown have been there for the majority of the journey and deserve a lot of credit for getting the club to where it is today," Cronin, who started coaching juniors at the age of 22, with players such as Ron Quinn, Peter Ford, Allan Miller and Russell Collyer in his side, said.
"They all know plenty about the game, probably even more than me, so I can't see why the club won't be successful for years to come.
"The last couple of years, all I did was pick our style and who was playing each week, with those guys running a lot of the sessions - especially Scotty, who used to bring numerous [St George Illawarra] Dragons drills to the club.
"It's in Scott's hands now if he wants to tweak anything but this is a big chance for him to step up - I'm confident he's the right man for the job."
While Stewart, who has been a part of five titles himself, believes Cronin is underselling his impact of the club with his comments, he is excited to get his chance.
"Mick's influence on the club was enormous. He developed the style of play that was successful and kept everyone accountable," Stewart, who won a title as a player in 1994, said.
"He set a high standard and didn't let it slip, which is a big part of why there is such a strong culture at the club.
"Admittedly, John and I did a lot of the skill work on Tuesday's training but on Thursday, he took over - so he's selling himself short a bit of the role he played in the club's success. Believe me, everyone knew who was boss.
"And it wasn't until after Mick's speech at the presentation, that couple of us got a feeling that last season might be it for him.
"Two days before nominations, Darryl told me Mick wasn't applying, so I threw my hat in the ring and got it by default, as no one else was running.
"After being at the senior club since 1990 and with my school teacher and coaching background, I always had hoped I'd get the chance to coach the first grade side.
"Now was as good as a time as any to put my hand up and I'm excited to get the opportunity and am looking forward to the challenge."
In terms of what 2021 has in store for the Lions, who will be without Tyran Wishart (Dragons), Kayne Brennan (West), Matt Winchester and Tim Moore (both retired), Stewart admits not much will change.
"We won't be changing too much, as we've got a successful formula here at the club," Stewart, who's been working at the Dragons for 18 years, said.
"We will implement a couple of little things to keep the boys motivated, but with players such as Danny Wedd, Isaac Russell, Judd Collyer and Toby Gumley-Qunine missing last year's premiership through injury, the group is as hungry as ever.
"I'm also very lucky to walk into an environment where the senior players, such as Nathan Ford and Rixon Russell continually set the standards and keeping the boys in check - especially with most of the group being mates off the field."
Just as the saying goes 'it's like coming into bat after Bradman has just made a century', Stewart knows there is going to be pressure to perform on the field, especially after an undefeated premiership.
"Of course there's going to be pressure but it's nothing that the boys and I can't handle," he said.
"With the group we've got, including the players who have returned like Toby [Gumley-Quine], Lloyd Bowen, Alex Brookes and Adam Thomson, plus having a player like Aaron Grigg back in town, I'm absolutely confident we will be right up there again.
"There's no lack of enthusiasm at training and everyone is focused on the task at hand.
"And with such good juniors coming through the ranks, including our under 18s, it's important we continue to build on the culture Mick developed and pass it on to these younger players, so they can continue the Lions' success for years to come."