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Sorry Brisbane and Sydney fans, but a Storm vs Cowboys grand final should have everyone salivating

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

189 Have your say

Popular article! 4,822 reads

    After a somewhat lacklustre regular season, the NRL finals have been scintillating, with plenty of drama and, more importantly, some exceptional football.

    Though you would expect the quality of play to rise once you say goodbye to the bad teams, that’s not always the case, as some finals games can be boring, lopsided or uninspired.

    Not in 2017. The rugby league on display over the last couple of weekends has been of a great standard, and we’re now right down to the business end of the season, with just four teams remaining.

    The Melbourne Storm will face the Brisbane Broncos at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday night before the Sydney Roosters take on the North Queensland Cowboys at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, with the winners meeting in Homebush for the grand final.

    With all due respect to Brisbane and Sydney, if you’re not yearning for a Storm versus Cowboys final, you’re either a Broncos or Roosters fan, or you really hate Melbourne or North Queensland.

    The Broncos and Roosters have never been popular teams outside of their own supporter base.

    For many years in the ARL and then the NRL, Brisbane simply represented ‘Queensland’ in the eyes of many New South Welshmen, which immediately put the Broncos offside with the majority of fans south of the border. State of Origin breeds a lot of hatred and pettiness, and for many, that doesn’t end with the third game in the interstate series each year – it carries on.

    With the Broncos always having a fair share of Maroons players, plus the enigmatic Wayne Bennett as coach, it adds up to them struggling to have many people call them their second-favourite team.

    Proving that pettiness isn’t just based on parochial state borders, the Roosters have never been the darlings of rugby league either, despised both in and outside of Sydney.

    Mitchell Pearce Sydney Roosters NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    The general perception is that the Chooks buy players (rather than develop them), cheat the salary cap, and that their chairman, Nick Politis, wields his considerable power to the unfair benefit of his club.

    Fans never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and those reasons to hate the Roosters realistcially don’t actually hold any weight. Yet passion has never been close friends with rational thought.

    Though the Daily Telegraph consistently attempts to promote the notion that Sydneysiders always get behind whatever Sydney team is left in the competition, I don’t think that’s true at all. I certainly feel no favouritism towards Sydney clubs once the Bulldogs are done.

    As such, few people will be hoping for a Broncos-Roosters grand final.

    That’s not to say Melbourne are everyone’s cup of tea. Far from it. You could argue that the Storm may be even more unpopular than the Broncos and Roosters combined.

    Whether it’s their location way outside of rugby league heartland, their guilt in cheating the salary cap, the narrative they brought wrestling into the game, the presence of Maroon royalty – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – in their playing ranks (that rubs Blues supporters the wrong way), or simply their sustained brilliance and success over many years, Melbourne is an extremely loathed franchise.

    Cameron Smith Melbourne Storm NRL Finals Rugby League 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Like the aforementioned Broncos and Roosters, whether that hatred is fair or not is completely beside the point. Rugby league fandom is built on emotion and tribalism, and a large part of that is not just supporting your team, but hating every other team. This ensures that fans only need a smidgen of proof that the opposition is worthy of being disliked, and their confirmation bias kicks in.

    However, what the Storm do have on their side is that they are very, very good at football. They’ve been the best team in the competition this season, and have been NRL’s for over a decade. They play an attractive style of football and have a number of players who will be remembered as all-time greats, as well as a brilliant coach.

    So if you truly love rugby league, you want to see Melbourne in the final, because you want to see the very best.

    The Storm will need a partner for the big dance though, and what better person than Cinderella for that lovely role?

    The North Queensland Cowboys tick a lot of boxes when it comes to the fairytale underdog. They only barely made the top eight, needing the Dragons to capitulate in order to book their spot in the finals. They’re also playing without their injured skipper – and world’s best player – in Johnathan Thurston, not to mention losing the services of the game’s best prop, Matt Scott.

    Yet they find themselves just one win from the grand final after knocking out last year’s premiers, the Cronulla Sharks, in week one, and then beating Parramatta on Saturday night.

    The only thing that counts against them is the fact they won the competition a few years ago. If you could add ‘premiership drought’ to their narrative, they would surely be the most sentimental favourite in NRL history.

    A Cowboys win would be a fantastic story, and as such, many people will be hoping they can add the Roosters to their list of scalps.

    The Cowboys’ chances aren’t confined to just ‘hope’, though; they’re in with a real shot of another upset on Saturday night. They have momentum on their side on the field, and plenty of momentum off the field as well, with most fans jumping on board the bandwagon.

    North Queensland Cowboys fans NRL 2016

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Yet it’s not these intangible factors that should give the Cowboys optimism they can beat the Chooks, but rather some concrete, rugby league-related reasons they should feel good about their chances.

    They are playing excellent football at the right time of the year and will have built up a lot of confidence from their two thrilling finals wins thus far.

    Meanwhile, coach Paul Green has emerged as a sensational young tactician who brings a level head and calmness to his squad, which ensures the team plays – for the most part – under control and composed. Important qualities that their two vanquished foes did not exhibit.

    Lastly, you can’t win without talent, and though it’s unfair to single out two players from a whole team that has been playing well, Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo have been at the top of their games. They are both now legitimate superstars. When you have a forward making 200 metres a game for fun and a half who controls the game beautifully, but with flourishes of brilliance, you’re in a very healthy position.

    The Cowboys aren’t an average team on a fun roll; they’re a very good team. Combine that with their alluring underdog narrative, and Melbourne’s sheer footballing excellence, and we should all be salivating over a potential Storm versus Cowboys final.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (189)

    • September 19th 2017 @ 6:05am
      RM said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Broncos vs Cowboys Grand Final all the way! Another chapter to add to the NRL’s best rivalry over the past few seasons…

      I think the most likely is Storm vs Roosters though. Having the week off at this of year and playing fresh against a team that has just played two tough games in a row is a huge advantage. After that I think Storm vs Cowboys as I rate North Qld a better chance of causing an upset than my Broncos. Still, I live in hope.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 3:32pm
        matth said | September 19th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

        Cowboys have to travel from Townsville to Sydney for the third week in a row as well. If they win, it will be a heck of an effort.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 6:16pm
        John said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

        Cows v Broncs would in my opinion be the neutral’s fan ideal GF. Given the rivalry and the dramatic 2015 GF I reckon fans wouldn’t mind a round 2 and perhaps have a Ben Hunt redemption story to boot.

        In all likelihood I can see Melbourne being in the GF, and most probably Roosters, you would have to think Cows would be running on fumes by now considering their injuries and how they have been playing these past couple of months. As much as I would love to see Broncos in the GF I just can’t see them beating Storm.

    • Roar Guru

      September 19th 2017 @ 6:37am
      eagleJack said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      Not sure I agree that the DT consistently promotes Sydneysiders getting behind a Sydney team. I distinctly recall the build-up to the 2011 GF being the complete opposite. Back then it was all about supporting the Warriors. Cheering on the Kiwis because nobody in Sydney likes Manly. Which is fair enough.

      This year I’m actually hoping for a Storm v Roosters GF. They have had two great tussles this year (although one was impacted by SOO) and I expect the big dance to be no different. The only team I give a slight chance of causing an upset this weekend are the Cowboys. A team playing with such belief can be hard to stop. Although they really haven’t been tested to date, and the Roosters size and speed on the edges should trouble them.

      The Storm will have a comfortable win in Melbourne. The Broncos look exhausted to me. The last 20mins of the game last week they were holding on for dear life. They were just lucky the Panthers have been terrible all year in the attacking red zone. The Storm are another 3 steps up in class and won’t have a problem against a weary defence.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 8:56am
        qwetzen said | September 19th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        “Although they really haven’t been tested to date, and the Roosters size and speed on the edges should trouble them”

        A few Cows kicks behind that terrific Spoonerism,Flake Gerguson, should be worth a couple of tries…

        • Roar Guru

          September 19th 2017 @ 9:23am
          eagleJack said | September 19th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          That awkward moment when you stuff up a spoonerism.

          • September 19th 2017 @ 9:37am
            qwetzen said | September 19th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            Ashley the correct one is even apter as Bergerson is phonetically a bit redolent of ‘Burkerson’.

      • Columnist

        September 19th 2017 @ 1:39pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | September 19th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        Even the DT hates Manly!

        • Roar Guru

          September 19th 2017 @ 1:57pm
          BigJ said | September 19th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          Doesn’t everybody???

      • September 20th 2017 @ 5:51pm
        Uncle Nick's Chauffer said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

        Not sure what Penrith were trying to achieve inside the Bronco’s 20 – went sideways way too often which was easily read by the defence – the try and the almost try(Cambell-Gillard) was achieved by turning the ball back inside to go through the middle- needed to do that more – plus the grubber behind the defence was rarely used since Brisbane have their fullbacks defending in the line as well.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 19th 2017 @ 6:57am
      up in the north said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      The only thing better than a Cowbies Melbourne gf would be one between Cowbies Bronc’s.
      We just have the small matter of overcoming the Chooks in Sydney. Doable but hard.
      Massive shout out to Coach Greeny for a mighty effort.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 6:59am
      Bluey said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Yeah .. nah. Roosters v Storm for me.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 12:28pm
        Albo said | September 19th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Yep ! I think the fairy tales for the Queensland teams will end this weekend. The QLD fans can still cheer their Storm maroons against the Roosters maroons in two weeks time. This should be the best scenario for a top Grand Final.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 7:30am
      andrew said | September 19th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      I admit I haven’t read this whole thing sorry.
      I stopped at the notion that the football we have seen in the Finals has been “scintillating” compared to the “lacklustre” regular season. I think the first two matches in week 1 were great (Eels v Storm and Broncs v Roosters). Since then the four subsequent matches have been lacklustre and only that finality existed for a team in each of those matches added any intrigue. But other than that the matches were all poorly played by one or both sides.
      The game really needs to quality games this weekend given we are headed to (potentially) a very one sided Grand Final – given the Storm’s dominance.

      • Columnist

        September 19th 2017 @ 1:41pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | September 19th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        Just goes to show that you can’t please everybody!

        • Roar Guru

          September 19th 2017 @ 3:29pm
          Con Scortis said | September 19th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          Hey Ryan, I thought the first two paragraphs of your article were “scintillating”.

          • Columnist

            September 19th 2017 @ 6:41pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | September 19th 2017 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

            Thank you, Con. That’s a scintillating comment.

    • September 19th 2017 @ 7:31am
      RandyM said | September 19th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      If the Cowboys had Thurston and Scott then yes. They can’t match it with the Storm without those two though.

      However Storm vs Cowboys (with JT and Scott) is a 50/50 proposition and definitely worth salivating over.

      • September 19th 2017 @ 8:18am
        KingCowboy said | September 19th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        Yer by some act of god, the cows to make the GF, the Storm should rest the big three!

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