The sun is out, the flowers are blooming – spring is in full swing and finals footy is in the air. We started with 16 back in March and now only 2 remain - the big dance is upon us.
Who will be victorious and take home the Provan-Summons trophy come Sunday night - the Melbourne Storm or the North Queensland Cowboys?
The Melbourne Storm are red hot favourites, led by captain and likely future immortal, Cameron Smith, who was also crowned the 2017 Dally M medallist this week for the 2nd time in his illustrious career.
Having only lost 4 games this season (two of these coming without their big 3 during the Origin period), the odds are stacked heavily in their favour.
The Storm will take a nine-game winning streak into the decider.
However, this is a grand final and as we all know anything can happen. Led by super coach Craig Bellamy, who has one of the greatest spines in modern day history at his disposal in Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Munster, the challenge for the North Queensland Cowboys is already one of their greatest yet.
Combine that with the absence of likely future immortal Johnathan Thurston, and Australia and Queensland superstar prop, Matt Scott, and the Cowboys are in for a hell of a fight.
Nonetheless, the Cowboys, who finished the regular season in 8th spot thanks to a final round win by the Bulldogs over the Dragons, have defied the odds so far to get to where they are.
They defeated the Sharks in golden point in week 1, the Eels in week 2, and the Roosters last week to claim their 2nd Grand Final berth in the last 3 seasons. Their never say die attitude and constant starvation of the ball for opposing teams have been two of the main catalysts in this unheralded run throughout the finals series, and they will have to be at the top of their game this Sunday if they are to take home the chocolates.
Unfortunately, for the Cowboys though, history is not on their side as no team has ever won the competition from 8th position (Parramatta are the only side to make the Grand Final from 8th position back in 2009). Parramatta put up a valiant effort but the difference in class was evident back then, just as it may be now.
In fact, not since the Bulldogs back in 1995 has a team from 6th place or below won the competition, granted the ARL/NRL Finals series has only featured 8 teams since 1994.
However, history is there to be made and that is what the Cowboys will be aiming to do and in turn, write their name in the record books.
Taking into account all of these little nuggets of information, here are a few more stats that may influence your decisions, should you decide to have a sneaky wager on the match.
- 7 of the last 9 meetings between the two have totalled under 36 points
- 5 of the last 6 Grand Finals have totalled under 36 points
- Melbourne have covered 5 of their last 6 as favourites of 8 points or more
By Nik Hatzi