It’s an all-interstate Grand Final in the National Rugby League this season.
Melbourne will be looking to go one better than last year while North Queensland is hoping to secure its second premiership in three seasons in what will truly be one of the most memorable Grand Final runs in history.
The Storm were ruthless against Brisbane last week in racking up a 30-nil win in their Preliminary Final while the Cowboys scored their third straight upset in the finals to down the Roosters, 29-16.
MELBOURNE has looked streets ahead of most of the NRL this season.
The Storm head into the decider off the back of 10 straight wins and in four of their past five victories the margin has been at least 26 points, with the only exception being the narrow two-point win over Parramatta in Week 1 of the finals.
Melbourne’s average winning margin in the past five games is a whopping 29.6 points.
Blessed with the best attack (26.37ppg) and defence (14ppg) throughout the regular season, Craig Bellamy’s side runaway J.J Giltinan Shield success was anchored by their formidable away form which read 11 wins and just one loss.
Being on neutral ground the Grand Final venue of ANZ Stadium won’t worry the hot favourites one bit.
NORTH QUEENSLAND’s run to the finals has been one of the huge success stories of 2017.
Out of finals contention after dropping their final game of the regular season, the Cowboys only scraped into eighth spot after Canterbury knocked off the Dragons two days later.
Since then the Cowboys haven’t done anything flash in knocking off Cronulla, Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters – they have played a simple style of footy that has worked to perfection!
Paul Green’s side are the leading team in the NRL this season when it comes to completing their sets and that again proved to be their biggest asset against the Sydney Roosters. Completing at near 90 percent, the Roosters made a number of errors and completed at just 65 percent which opened the door for the Cowboys to capitalise.
Holding the ball and using Jason Taumololo as a wrecking ball has been the key to their success throughout the finals.
Melbourne is currently on a five-game winning streak against the Cowboys.
The first four of those wins were decided by eight points or less, however, in their most recent clash in Round 22 it was the Storm that prevailed 26-8.
In fact three of the past eight encounters between the sides have been decided by just one point.
This is MELBOURNE’s Grand Final to lose.
There is a reason they are hot favourites across all corporate bookies with the best price currently available being $1.29 @ Unibet. Melbourne were minor premiers by six points which goes to show you how far in front of the rest of the competition they have been.
In saying that they aren’t invincible and if anything their two finals appearances this season have shown that if a side is good enough to put them under pressure early, then a win could be on the cards.
Parramatta did well to get into the face of the Storm pack and rough up the rest of the team. Although they fell two points short of the upset they offered a blueprint that could bring about the undoing of Melbourne.
Brisbane, likewise, had numerous chances to score points early on the Storm last week after they made some uncharacteristic errors, however, they weren’t good enough to take them.
If we have learnt anything from North Queensland this season is you can never doubt them.
They have made the Grand Final having missed Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott for large parts of the season and saluted three times in the finals as underdogs by playing a simple brand of footy.
Michael Morgan is their main hope and if his kicking game is spot on like it has been over the past three weeks, then the $4.10 @ bet365 about them winning the Grand Final represents tremendous value.
Taumalolo, so destructive this finals series, will need to be at his best against the intimidating Storm forwards if the Cowboys are to be given a chance to put pressure on the Melbourne defence.
All things being equal though we just think Melbourne have too many guns and will be too professional for a brave Cowboys outfit who are aiming to become the first team to win the comp from eighth spot.
Our value bets for the game will be Cowboys +10 (Handicap, $2 @ bet365), Melbourne 1-12 Winning Margin ($3 @ Sportsbet) and Cameron Smith as the Clive Churchill Medallist ($2.75 @ TAB).
NORTH QUEENSLAND + 10 (HANDICAP)
MELBOURNE 1-12 WINNING MARGIN
SULIASI VUNIVALU FIRST TRYSCORER – has registered the first four-pointer on six occasions this season