Five talking points from Storm vs Cowboys NRL Grand Final

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    The 2017 NRL grand final has been won by the Melbourne Storm in a dominant display, defeating the North Queensland Cowboys by 28 points. Here are my talking points from the game.

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    » Match report: Storm slam Cowboys
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    Are this Storm team the best ever?
    The 2017 Melbourne Storm are going to go down in history as one of the best ever. While Craig Bellamy’s side have made seven out of the last 12 grand finals, this is almost undoubtedly the best they have ever been.

    The only side over the last decade that can hold a candle to them is the one which was over the salary cap a decade ago.

    And sure there have been some good teams in the modern era, and right back through rugby league history, but can any of them truly hold anything up to what the Storm have achieved this year. They have three of the best players to ever lace up a boot, and are a complete side right across the park.

    But it’s more than that. They haven’t played a wrestling, slow style of rugby league which was common of Melbourne in the last few years. Genuinely, they have been entertainers.

    While their defence, as you’d expect from any Craig Bellamy-coached side has been strong, their attack actually has fans wanting to watch them. Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu manning the wings are only part of the reason why.

    Then there are the forwards. Jesse Bromwich is close to the best prop in the game, Dale Finucane has gone from honest toiler to cusp of Origin selection and Tohu Harris is dangerous – as we saw last night.

    Then there’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who is an absolute giant, and back out on the edges with youngster Curtis Scott and the veteran Will Chambers. Cap it all off with Cameron Munster, and it’s little wonder why they have been so good.

    I’ve praised Melbourne all season long, and it’s been hard not to. But now, with the premiership victory under their belt, and just a couple of losses all season, we can officially put them on a shortlist of the greatest ever teams.

    Cameron Smith NRL Rugby League Melbourne Storm Grand Final 2017

    The Cowboys will be back and might just be favourites in 2018
    While North Queensland failed to get the job done last night, this is a side who are going into 2018 as the favourites. There is almost no doubt about it.

    So long as Johnathan Thurston hasn’t lost his way after spending months on the sidelines, their second half of the season – a giant-killing run to the grand final – has set them up for success when the new season kicks off in March.

    Think about it for just a moment. Insert Thurston and rugby league’s best prop Matt Scott back into a grand final team. What does that make them for the next season?

    Yeah, premiership favourites.

    Sure, Melbourne will be up there again and I expect them to continue going brilliantly with Munster taking over from Cronk, but if Slater is to go as well it becomes a different story altogether.

    On top of Scott and Thurston, the Cowboys also welcome Jordan McLean. On top of that, they lost no players from their grand final 17.

    If stability is a key, then North Queensland have nailed it for next season.

    The amount Michael Morgan has learnt this year leading the team around the park will be only beneficial, while Lachlan Coote has had a strong finals run. Their bench forwards have punched above their weight and Te Maire Martin is going to be a wonderful backup or utility for the next 12 months as he continues to prepare for a complete takeover of Thurston’s position in 2019.

    It’ll also be the season where North Queensland can send Thurston out a winner. All the stars are aligning, and with Paul Green at the helm, if they aren’t favourites come Round 1, then something has gone dismally wrong in the pre-season.

    So… Jason Taumalolo can be stopped
    In saying all of that, last night, we remembered that the Kiwi lock, the human wrecking-ball, can be stopped. It’s possible, but it takes an 80-minute effort in defence.

    It’s virtually the first time all season Taumalolo has been even slowed down. He came out of the regular season averaging more than 200 metres per game and stepped it up in the finals, going past 250 in each of the three matches, powering the Cowboys to an unexpected grand final appearance.

    Last night, he was limited to just 124 metres from 12 runs. He had less touches of the footy, and while he still made ten metres a carry, it simply wasn’t enough. The Storm defence rushed off the mark, jammed him for space all night, and in the end it was one of the keys to them running away with the match during the back end of the first half and again in the second.

    Melbourne’s back five return to the top, so it’s little surprise Melbourne played their best game in a month
    It takes one look at the statsheet differences between the grand final and each of the Storm’s previous two finals to understand exactly what made all the difference.

    The back five. They all played superb games of footy, getting the Storm’s sets off to fantastic starts, while Billy Slater was also the Clive Churchill medal winner (despite Cameron Smith probably being best on ground – he simply came up with the big play when it was needed).

    Josh Addo-Carr made 224 metres from 18 runs and scored a double. He has pace to burn and showed it last night, while Chambers and Scott did their job and then some. Vunivalu was a little quiet with limited opportunity, but still made every touch of the footy count.

    Put simply, they are going to become even more important in 2018 without Cronk there to run the show. Coming into the middle and doing more yardage runs are going to be crucial for a Storm team who are likely to be under more pressure at times than what they faced for the majority of 2017.

    Josh Addo-Carr Melbourne Storm NRL Rugby League Grand Final 2017

    Cameron Munster is perfectly capable of replacing Cooper Cronk
    Munster has grown significantly in 2017, preparing for life after Cronk. He, alongside Jahrome Hughes, is going to be tasked with leading the side from the six and seven next year, and Munster will be the key half.

    While he has played a running game this season, which complements Cronk’s kicking fantastically, he has shown time and time again his vision is impeccable and the opportunities kicking have all been taken well.

    Consistency is a big theme in Melbourne, and Munster has been just that. He handled the bright lights of State of Origin well and has put in solid performances all finals. He capped it off last night, running for 130 metres, being involved in some good lead-up work and making a staggering 33 tackles – that’s plenty for a half.

    He is prepared to roll up the sleeves and do the hard yards, but has been involved in plenty of crisp attacking plays this season as well.

    While there may be growing pains, Munster is more than capable of taking over from Cronk.

    Roarers, what did you make of the NRL grand final? Drop a comment below and let us know!

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (77)

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:48am
      Ken said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:48am | ! Report

      Good article but I think you got it wrong , it will be Brodie Croft and Munster for next years 6/7 , Jahrome can play 1 or no 6 and Ryle Jacks can play 6 or 7 , so the Storm will continue to dominate ,ad a fit and motivated Sam Kasiano after a torturous Storm preseason and even after McLean leaves we will still have a even bigger forward pack .

      • Roar Rookie

        October 2nd 2017 @ 6:38am
        Joe said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:38am | ! Report

        Agree with Ken. Both Bellamy and Smith have said that Croft will get first crack at the 7 jersey after his performances this year. I expect Munster will remain at 6 and Hughes will get the 1 after Slater.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 8:05am
          Jimmmy said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

          Hi Joe ,Congrats on last night. They are an attacking machine, the Storm.. That pass from Harris, wow!, Which other forward in the NRL throws that?
          It’s sad in a way that we won’t ever see Cronk, Slater and Smith again in club footy but they show other players what they need to aspire to. Enjoy the off season. I am don in Melb for the opnening of the World Cup. See ya there.

          • Roar Rookie

            October 2nd 2017 @ 8:10am
            Joe said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

            Thanks Jimmy. Got the World Cup to tide me over but already looking forward to next season as must Cowboys fans when they get a full team on deck + Mclean. Harris is definitely going to be missed, as Bellamy said he is a real footy player in the mold of Cam Smith, not a gym junky or the best trainer but footy smarts and effort.

      • Roar Guru

        October 2nd 2017 @ 10:18am
        Scott Pryde said | October 2nd 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        Hi Ken, Joe – yeah you’re probably right fellas. Oversight on my behalf, but they have plenty of depth there do the Storm with Jacks also hanging around. He has impressed me this year.

        I’m going to be mighty interested to see how Kasiano performs under Bellamy after some inconsistent years at the ‘Dogs.

    • Roar Pro

      October 2nd 2017 @ 6:24am
      Mike Huber said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      Brodie Croft is earmarked to take over from Cooper Cronk , not Munster .

      Since Munster has come back from injury he has been pretty average – crabbing across the field and losing valuable field poison and shape. Munster is a good honest player whom in essence is a utility player due to his pedigree of being a jack of all trades and master of none ( positions). Munster had a break out game in SOO 3 but that sort of display is the exception , not the norm for him. Indeed , he had a birthday that game and I doubt wether we will see him achieve those heights again in SOO.

      Brodie Croft is the next “big thing ” at The Storm and many at the club are quietly confident he can be as good as Cronk which leaves Melbourne in a very healthy position. Bellamy will readily replace Harris and Maclean and The Storm will be fighting out the Premiership again against the Cowboys.

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 7:01am
      Mike Dugg said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      It was always going to be the Storm to win. The refs were so biased towards them

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:02am
        Peter Phelps said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        Hhhh

        Apart from the try just after half time that the refs gave the Cowboys, the penalty count was 5:1 in favour of the Cows …… what bias ???

        Apart from that short period after the break, there was little evidence of bias and the refs did a great job.

        I am absolutely convinced that Ceccin was told at half time to ensure the Cows didn’t go home scoreless. From a sentimentality point of view, I can understand that however there is no room for such actions in any sport. Thin end of the wedge.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:57am
          Doc79 said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          I’d argue that the Storm deliberately gave those penalties away. They don’t care they lost the penalty count only that they win the game using cynical tactics. It just shows the the refs are too weak to use the bin for repeat professional infringements and Bellamy knows it.

          • Roar Guru

            October 2nd 2017 @ 1:01pm
            The Barry said | October 2nd 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

            They definitely gave the penalties away deliberately.

            No coincidence that the only time in the game they gave away penalties is the only time the Cowboys had sustained possession in their 20.

            Cue the “hater” comments.

            • October 2nd 2017 @ 6:26pm
              Brendon said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

              I did think the penalties were a little weak, especially since Cronk was destroyed post kick by the cowboys number 8 and Munster was completely upended but I can live with them. the only one I wasn’t sure about, if I’m honest is the Slater working the head? I didn’t even see him in that tackle, it was a weird penalty…..

              Not a hater, I like you TB! I didn’t think a send off was needed though…

              • Roar Guru

                October 2nd 2017 @ 7:03pm
                The Barry said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

                I don’t think the refs needed to bin anyone either, they handled it ok. I don’t think they would have tolerated too many more though.

                It was deliberate though but as Dean-o has said below, all teams do it.

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 2:12pm
            Dean said | October 2nd 2017 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

            Doc. All teams use cynical tactics. Name onenteam that doesn’t. I suppose uourbteam yeh.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:28am
        doogs said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        thats a weak comment. I feel that you did not even see the game

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 2:10pm
        Dean said | October 2nd 2017 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

        And you’re biased against them jerk. Square.

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 7:13am
      andrew said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      At full time the Clive Churchill market was
      Smith $1.03
      Cronk $11
      Slater $15

      They take away – you are a fool to bet on the Churchill unless you know who those making the decision are betting on..

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 7:18am
      Raugeee said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      Usually a scoreline of 34-6 indicates one side stopped showing up. That wasn’t the case last night. NQ Cowboys were still playing tough, gritty football right till the end. When Nelson Asofa-Solomona made his first run, he scattered the already exhausted Cowboys like 10 pins, he did that seven more times. The difference in games and travel was finally starting to show. NQ spirit wasn’t going to be enough against much fresher legs. They still did themselves proud though, it was still a fine game of tough Rugby League.

      • Roar Rookie

        October 2nd 2017 @ 8:04am
        Joe said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Absolutely. The Cowboys effort was there to the end, I think they ended up completing at around 90%. I think the week off in the finals made a difference in the end for the Storm. How the Cowboys kept flying back to NQ and back for their 3 finals and won their way through to the GF was a feat in itself but I think it finally took its toll. They needed things to go their way in the GF to have a chance and losing Fensom in the first 4 mins pretty much threw their interchange out of whack and it was too much in the end.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 8:11am
        Peter Phelps said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        Agree, The Cowboys played their hearts out but like I said this time last week, they were stuffed, battered, bruised and exhausted.

        The only blot on this fantastic game and 2 fantastic teams was Green’s comment about the first Addo-Carr try. That was childish and unnecessary. Funny that he didn’t mention the try the officials gave his side after half time. That stank of game manipulation. If I am wrong then I apologise but if I am right, then get that out of our game Greenburg, we don’t need it.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 8:15am
          Jimmmy said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

          Give it a rest mate . Just bask in the premiership glow for a while.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:50am
          Andrew said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          A melbourne fan mentioning game manipulation by the nrl, that will do me, lol.
          Well done melbourne, a great team this year, but 2 premierships in your era of dominance doesnt compare to previous generations when mentioning great teams. Bulldogs, eels, brisbane, saints ( thats just my era).

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:04am
            Peter Phelps said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            I don’t want any manipulation in any game or sport, therein lies disaster. That is why I am a bit hot under the collar about it. Spoiled a great game between 2 great teams.

            • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:31am
              doogs said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

              why would a coach’s comment spoil a great game. It’s only a comment from the coach. I still loved the game and I was going for Cowboys

              • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:52am
                Peter Phelps said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

                I mean’t the manipulation for that is what it was.

            • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:38am
              Andrew said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              Thats a big call after how the eels storm final was influenced or manipulated as you called it. Enjoy the premiership, a storm fan whinging after winning the comp is a bit rich.

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 12:12pm
            Wang said | October 2nd 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            If it’s not a national comp and it wasn’t salary cap policed it doesn count

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 6:29pm
            Brendon said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

            Actually if we are comparing the greats of the eels, Bulldogs, saints and Brisbane then Melbourne have 4 premierships. The salary cap didn’t exist back then so the comparison needs to include the Storm team where the cap didn’t exist as well, right?

            • Roar Guru

              October 2nd 2017 @ 6:39pm
              Emcie said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

              Not when the rest of the comp was expected to though. Those teams still competed under the same rules as everyone else

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 12:26pm
          Rob said | October 2nd 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          Chechin did move across T. Martins path getting out of Ado Carrs way. I can’t keep up with the rule interpretations, but you could always use the ref as a moving blocker as long as the player with the ball doesn’t touch him. As for Martin falling down he had little option, as slamming into the back of the Ref is a suspension offence. Martin wasn’t really looking to get a penalty. They were just complaining at the ref for getting in the way. Which he did but it’s play on unfortunately for the Cowboys.
          I hate the hold down penalty as they’re so inconsistent and yes the Ref can influence the game. The thing that I’d like to see is one on one tackles being rewarded. The gang tackles with players locking up the ball and holding the player off the ground or arms hooked around the neck should get penalised. Taumalolo was taken out of the equation last night and on one occasion he was held by 3 players and picked up by a players with his hands between the legs and turned around almost getting him into a dangerous position. Players shouldn’t lift players from the waist down because it’s dangerous. Players lifting players in gang tackles is garbage in my opinion.
          One thing that annoyed me was Chambers passing the ball forward to a flying Billy Slater to take a quick restart from the 20. That’s a bit unfair on retreating defenders in my opinion. The advantage is 7 tackles not promoting the ball forward and then allowing play on.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:00am
        Mushi said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        I watched a replay when I got off the plane and gee, a lot of those 50/50 balls stuck for Melbourne. Speculative passes just grasped, Ricochets that went backwards etc.

        Still comfortably looked like the better team but I think the score line of about +14 would have been a fairer indication.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 2:15pm
          Jimmmy said | October 2nd 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

          Yeah Mushi I agree to a point but Melbourne we’re willing to throw the pass , to take the risk and to trust in their skills to recover it . One piece of play that showed me the difference between the two sides was the Feldt break just before half time. If Melbourne made that break it is try time. What happens?Feldt dies with the ball. You have to set yourself up for the final pass and you have to throw it. They were a clas above.

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:58pm
            Mushi said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

            I agree, but it’s also rare that the miscues still go to hand or bounce back.

            I’m still saying a team should have won by more than two converted tries, that’s still suggesting a class gap (just not a chasm)

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 8:14am
      Jimmmy said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Hi all, just about to pack up and head north . Great time in Sydney. Sore head but worth it. Didn’t get the result but what a ride .
      To the Storm. Very, very , well done. I think that side will go down as one of the best Grand Final winning sides of all time . Six!!!! Origin players , two future immortals, the Kiwi captain and some young future stars. Winning a grand final that way plus the Broncs thrashing the week before , plus the results during the season, surely elevates them to the top or thereabouts in premiers . Enjoy the off season everyone.

      • Roar Guru

        October 2nd 2017 @ 10:20am
        Scott Pryde said | October 2nd 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Classy post Jimmy,

        Off-season? What about the World Cup?

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