NRL Grand Final: Melbourne Storm versus North Queensland Cowboys – ANZ Stadium – 21.20NZT
It’s been a phenomenal year of rugby league, especially for these two teams.
Melbourne’s regular season performance saw them only drop four games. Meaning they were victorious in 20 of their 24 matches. That’s an incredible feat.
Four weeks ago, the North Queensland Cowboys were one wrong result away from missing out on the finals series altogether. If it wasn’t for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs upsetting the Saint George Illawarra Dragons, they’d have been ruing a season interrupted by injuries to key players.
But it was the lifeline they needed. This strong Cowboys contingent has bound together in a similar style to the side which saw them produce premiership heroics in 2015.
No Matt Scott, No Jonathan Thurston, no problems.
The Melbourne Storm are the NRL team fans love to hate. Fans hate their success, fans hate their style of play, and fans hate that they will always beat their team.
I have nothing but admiration for this Melbourne franchise. Harnessing not only three of the best players in history together – surrounded by a wealth of talent of all ages who are 80 minutes away from the clubs third premiership title.
WHAT TO EXPECT
There are lessons to be learnt from coming up short last year for Melbourne. This is a similar team, but a team that will not want to fall short for a second year.
Melbourne are going to be aware of this sensational finals run the Cowboys have produced.
Other than that, we’re well aware the Storm keep the majority of the focus on themselves. They’re a smart football team, a dominant football team, and they’re more than capable of winning this final convincingly. From the back to the front, each player can break this game wide open.
The Cowboys will stare this grand final in the eye, and take it all in. It’s no fluke they’ve got here, after finishing 8th. This team is not over-achieving. This team is right where they deserve to be.
There’s always going to be talk of the big three at Melbourne. Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, and Cameron Smith.
These players have defined what greatness is. As individuals, and as a collective – this is a trio of players that will go down in history.
With the departure of Cooper Cronk from Melbourne 80 minutes away, there’s no doubt in my mind he will produce a typical barnstorming performance.
The energy at the back with Billy Slater will be hard to be matched, and the smarts Smith runs from dummy half is just exceptional.
Michael Morgan, winner of the best halfback at the Dally M awards on Wednesday shows just how far this guy has come over the last three years.
He’s getting a lot of the attention across the media for being a key to success for their Premiership desires, but I want to throw some focus of Māori boy Te Maire Martin.
Since joining the North Queensland Cowboys mid-season from Penrith, he’s added flair and starch to the middle. Complimenting Michael Morgan nicely.
Martin is a ball runner, but reads the game perfectly too. Seemingly with all the time in the world with ball in hand, he’s going to be a real contender for Clive Churchill Medallist for best on ground if the Cowboys get the win.
The forwards are all so dynamic. Melbourne’s Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Felise Kaufusi, and Tohu Harris are all just monsters.
Matched by North Queensland’s Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, John Asiata, and Coen Hess – there’s a massive arm wrestle in the middle of the field with all these big boppers going head to head.
I’m excited at the prospect of this final, where others may not. The Storm are just an absolute juggernaut, and the Cowboys are hard running, packing a punch with every play.
I said earlier, it’s hard to go past Melbourne to win this. There’s that underdog status the Cowboys will have, which they’ve had all finals series long – but this year, the Storm’s performance has been near perfect.
They deserve to win this final, and I pick they’ll get the result.
FIRST TRY SCORER: Josh Addo-Carr
FULL TIME RESULT: Storm 24 Cowboys 16
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