Cooper Cronk at a Melbourne Storm media session at AAMI Park.
Cooper Cronk at a Melbourne Storm media session at AAMI Park. JULIAN SMITH

Cronk favourite to win second Dally M

RUGBY LEAGUE: Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk is expected to continue his amazing season by being crowned the 2016 Dally M Player of the Year for a second time at a gala dinner in Sydney tomorrow night.

Cronk, who entered round 16 when betting was shut down as a $4 favourite, continued his good form for the rest of the season, guiding Melbourne into Sunday's grand final against Cronulla.

He was locked in a close battle with Canberra's English international Josh Hodgson, whose decision to plead guilty to a grapple tackle last month and not challenge the charge proved costly in the end.

Players lose three voting points for each game they are suspended.

In Hodsgon's case it was a six-point turnaround.

If Cronk, as expected, is crowned the winner, he will be the ninth halfback in the past 30 years to carry off the prestigious award.

Peter Sterling (1986-87), Garry Freeman (1992), Ricky Stuart (1993), Allan Langer (1996), Andrew Johns (1998-99, 2003), Matt Orford (2008), Johnathan Thurston (2005, 2007, 2014-15) and Cronk (2013) have won 14 Dally Ms between them.

Cronk was locked in a four-way tie back in June with Gold Coast forward Ryan James, who missed some games with a shoulder injury, rampaging young Cowboy Jason Taumalolo and his Storm teammate Cameron Smith, all on 16 points.

Hodgson was hard on their hammer on 14 points and played several big games as the Raiders charged home into second place.

North Queensland's Thurston will be trying to win his third Dally M in a row and the fifth of his career.

Thurston, who tied with Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne in 2014, ran away with the award by 11 votes last year as he took the Cowboys to their maiden premiership.

Voting, however, is expected to be much closer this year.