BROWNIE: The Storm to rain on the Bulldogs parade
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy overseeas a training session in Melbourne. AAP Image/Julian Smith
It’s great to see the teams that ran first and second in the premiership are now playing in the Grand Final. It shows the new finals format has worked effectively and provided a just ending to the competition.
Both sides are vastly different: one moves the ball from side-to-side, the other relies on their 9-7-1 axis to provide a platform for their efficient forward pack to punch holes in the opposition defence down the middle third of the field.
At Canterbury, their big men are their ball players; whereas, at Melbourne, the small men are their creative hubs.
Fittingly, the match also pits the two best coaches in the game head-to-head.
Both coaches are fastidious in terms of preparation and both have large off-field teams, who all have roles are managed well by the head coaches in preparation for all their games.
The game off the field really has gone so far ahead in recent years.
So who will win?
Well, this is what I do know…
I know that Cronk, Smith and Slater will all play very well. That is definitely going to happen. At the same time, some of the Bulldogs’ well performed players in key positions this season haven’t been tested yet in this pressure environment.
How they will perform on this big occasion is unknown.
Melbourne’s key players have done it year in, year out in Origins and finals series.
It’s going to be a fantastic finale to what’s been a quality season of rugby league. What’s been particularly impressive this year is the rise of clubs who struggled last year, but under new coaching, became genuine contenders in 2012.
The most notable examples, of course, are Souths and the Bulldogs.
I expect the same thing to happen next season with a fresh injection of new coaches into the NRL and more player movement to come in the off-season.
But first, we have a Grand Final to get through.
I’m tipping the Storm in a close one.