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Will the Storm or the Cowboys get their fairytale finish?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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122 Have your say

    Over the past few of years, the NRL has been very good at dealing in the business of fairytales.

    In 2014, the South Sydney Rabbitohs broke a 43-year premiership drought with a 30-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs in the grand final.

    In 2015, the North Queensland Cowboys won their first premiership in one of the greatest grand finals in rugby league history. An entire stadium held its breath as Johnathan Thurston had the opportunity to win the game in regular time with a sideline conversion, which hit the post.

    The stadium then erupted when Thurston kicked a golden-point field goal for to steal victory from the Brisbane Broncos 17-16.

    And who can forget last year, when Paul Gallen was finally able to tell residents of the Shire to “turn your porch lights off, because we’re coming home with a trophy”. After 50 years, the longest drought in the NRL was broken when the Cronulla Sharks defeated Melbourne 14-12 to bring home their maiden premiership.

    On Sunday, a new premier will be crowned, but which fairytale will prevail?

    With victories over the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos during the finals, the Storm now find themselves in their seventh grand final and second in a row.

    They have been the 2017 benchmark, finishing first in both attack and defence, claiming the minor premiership to take home their sixth JJ Giltinan Shield in Craig Bellamy’s 15 years as coach.

    On the way, Cameron Smith broke Darren Lockyer’s record of the most ever NRL appearances when he played his 356th match a couple of weeks ago. He also became the first NRL player to kick 1000 goals.

    The last time a team was so dominant in the regular season was the 2001 Parramatta Eels.

    Melbourne may look like an unlikely fairytale, but this will be the last time that Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Smith play together.

    Earlier this year, Cronk announced that he was moving to Sydney to be with his fiancé Tara Rushton, signalling the end of an era for this champion team.

    Say what you will about them, but this decade we have had the opportunity to watch three all-time greats play together, and this Sunday that will happen for the last time in club football.

    This will also be of great significance to Slater, who missed last year’s grand final due to a long-term injury.

    If the Storm do what everyone is predicting, it will be the send-off that Cronk deserves, a well-deserved reward for Slater who not only returned from long-term injury but returned better than ever, and a wonderful end to a historic season for Smith.

    It will also be a reflection of the hard work done by plenty of others, including Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi, Suliasi Vunivalu, Will Chambers, and Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the way this team plays together is not a fan of rugby league, because they are truly exceptional.


    AAP Image/Craig Golding

    But Melbourne are going to have to fight for their fairytale, because North Queensland are standing in their way and after the last three weeks, you would be a fool to write them off.

    The Cowboys’ season is the stuff that Disney movies are made of.

    For them to be just 80 minutes away from their second premiership is incredible to many fans, who expected them to be bundled out of the finals come Week 1 (me included).

    What I have learnt over this finals series though is that Paul Green’s side aren’t just a fairytale – they are a damn good football team.

    With wins over Cronulla, Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters, North Queensland have earned their place in the grand final, despite their huge injury woes.

    But forget the injuries, let’s focus on what has been happening on the field.

    Over the last ten weeks, Michael Morgan has been given the opportunity to demonstrate what a talented football player he is, transforming into the team’s key playmaker and most important leader.

    His kicking and passing game on Saturday night was stunning. It took just six minutes for Morgan to slot the 40-20 that set the tone for the rest of the game. Other moments of brilliants included the pass to put Kane Linnett over, another pass to Linnett moments later, who then passed to Kyle Feldt to score right in the corner, and Morgan’s field goal late in the second half to put the victory beyond doubt.

    Michael Morgan North Queensland Cowboys NRL Rugby League 2017

    Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images

    But it’s not just Morgan. I knew if the game was close on Saturday night before Jason Taumololo came on late in the second half, the Cowboys would win. He has been immense and continues to make metres up the middle without fuss or complaint.

    Feldt is one of the best finishers in the game. Ethan Lowe has been outstanding, particularly with the boot, and John Asiata continues to prove that he can be a play-maker if need be.

    Green and his team have such a strong sense of belief, desire and commitment to each other. It is the sort of story that rugby league loves because it’s based on the values that fans hold dearest.

    North Queensland go into this weekend with no one expecting them to win. While they may be the underdogs, they carry the hope of plenty of Sydney fans and the entire state of Queensland on their shoulders.

    And while the Storm may have been the best all season, I believe in fairytales, so I’m predicting that the Cowboys (and Shaun Fensom) are going to finish with theirs.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (122)

    • September 26th 2017 @ 6:42am
      Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Just don’t put your house on that, Mary

      • Roar Rookie

        September 26th 2017 @ 8:43am
        Hard Yards said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        True, we need a roof over our heads. But fairy tales aside, what if you take the view – as I do – that Melbourne ( the best team to take the field this year ) may have played their best finals footy last weekend. I don’t know if they’ll show up like again this week.

        Is it possible that we may witness – grossly unrepresentative of their talent as it would be – a monster choke?

        • September 26th 2017 @ 9:00am
          AGO74 said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          I actually think the storm were very ordinary in first 40 minutes and very lucky to go in up by 8 (broncos bombed 2 certain tries). That they eventually won by 30 is kind of scary.

          • Roar Rookie

            September 26th 2017 @ 1:39pm
            Don said | September 26th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

            The Storm bombed a couple in the first half as well though so the points difference would have been the same.

            That sitter that Vunivalu dropped with open space in front immediately comes to mind.

            • Roar Guru

              September 27th 2017 @ 3:47pm
              BigJ said | September 27th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

              It was the scrappiest first half that I have ever seen by both teams, not unlike my nephew’s under 15 grand final about two weeks ago, similar outcome his team won by 30 points. Drop balls, pushed passes that did not need to be throw, it was a terrible first half. But anyway the Storm should take it out without too many drams on Sunday and take home their third title.

        • Columnist

          September 26th 2017 @ 9:16am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          It happened with Parramatta in 2001… anything is possible.

          • September 26th 2017 @ 2:16pm
            Raugeee said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

            Mary – in 2001 Newcastle won in the first week and jumped straight to the Preliminary Final. NQ have had 3 weeks of sudden death and flown back and forth from Townsville. In 2001 Newcastle had a dream first half, converting everything to points, while Eels were desperately unlucky not to score. Eels dominated the second half, Newcastle scored 1 try of a lucky bounce following a kick, yet the Eels nearly ran them down scoring 24-6.
            In 2001 Newcastle had 9 fewer Premiership Points in the regular season than Parra whereas the Cowboys had 14 fewer points than the Storm this year.
            I’ll be cheering like crazy for the Cowboys but they face a sterner test than Newcastle did in 2001, and the Knights were very lucky that day. Eels in 2001 had perennial runner-up Brian Smith as coach, Craig Bellamy will have the Storm focused and ready. A bridge too far for NQ – Storm by 5.

          • September 26th 2017 @ 5:25pm
            Wayne Turner said | September 26th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Can’t compare Eels of 2001,with Storm of 2017. Eels were an inexperienced team,and it showed in the 2001 GF.While this Storm team is loaded with big game experience.

            • Columnist

              September 26th 2017 @ 8:10pm
              Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

              I’m not really comparing, I’m more just suggesting that anything is possible and these upsets certainly can happen.

        • September 26th 2017 @ 10:01am
          Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          I actually think that they will lift.

          That first half was pretty fast and furious and I think the Storm mistakes and Broncos missed tries were a direct result of that pressure. The game against the Eels in round 1 was similar. I think that the Storm really want this so much that they were trying too hard in those games. Once they started to relax in the second half against the broncos, the tries came.

          Bellamy and the Senior players will have recognised that and you can bet that they will have some buddist monk in there teaching them yoga or meditation or some other voodoo tricks to get that one addressed.

          I like the Cowboys and if the Storm hadn’t got there then I would have been shouting for them but

          the Cowboys finished 8th and the Storm 1st for a reason
          the Cowboys have some injury problems, the storm have very few
          the Cowboys have just had 3 tough games, the storm have had 2
          the Cowboys had to play 1 game into extra time, the storm didn’t
          the Cowboys had 3 games away from home, the storm went home to their beds each night

          Adrenaline, Belief, Hope, Camaraderie will only get you so far

          I think a certain Shield will be heading South not North.

          • September 26th 2017 @ 2:00pm
            Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            I would have thought adrenaline, belief, hope, and camaraderie were essential ingredients for winning a grand final

            • Columnist

              September 26th 2017 @ 4:23pm
              Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

              Me too!

              • September 27th 2017 @ 4:47am
                Ken said | September 27th 2017 @ 4:47am | ! Report

                You don’t think the storm has adrenaline, belief , hope and camaraderie ? THis whole the storm are robotic and machine like is a NSW media bunch of rubbish , they are normal human beings pushing themselves to extra ordinary levels Their preseason is noted by everyone that has played there as more brutal than anything they face on the field . Their big 3 or 4 counting money Munster have played in the most pressured atmosphere of origin , last year they missed the organisational and support play of Billy and that extra big body to drain defenders like a 6″7 123 kg Nelson Asafa Solomona .I won’t feel too bad if the cowboys win but our fairytale is for Cronk ,Tohu ,Griffin ,McLean and possibly Slater to go out as the champions they are .The fact is no one deserves to win a grand final you have to take it on the day but the boys know if anyone does deserve it , than it would be Cronk.

          • September 26th 2017 @ 2:29pm
            Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            And the fact that the Cowboys have had more tough games in the past month than the Storm and have got into the routine of winning away from home has me even more convinced that they are a big chance on Sunday.

      • Columnist

        September 26th 2017 @ 9:15am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Don’t worry Peter – nothing but my dignity is on the line here. 😛

        • September 26th 2017 @ 9:49am
          Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          Don’t know about dignity, your reputation perhaps.

          • September 26th 2017 @ 2:20pm
            Raugeee said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

            It took QLD 12 attempts to win at ANZ, it’s a tricky ground. Melb certainly have the edge in playing experience there. I can see that making a difference too.

            • September 26th 2017 @ 8:18pm
              Griffo said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

              NQ has won it’s last 5 matches there

              • September 27th 2017 @ 12:16am
                Raugeee said | September 27th 2017 @ 12:16am | ! Report

                Ok – the Parra match was there – I thought that was at Alliance. They beat the Bulldogs there this year. Souths and Bulldogs there in 2016 and the Broncos in the 2015 Grand Final. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • September 26th 2017 @ 6:55am
      republican said | September 26th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      …..the Storm by a country mile – sadly……….

      • September 26th 2017 @ 10:03am
        Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        don’t be sad about that, just means that the good guys win out.

        • September 26th 2017 @ 7:38pm
          republican said | September 26th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

          ………both are Qld sides truth be told, so FNQ Cowboys are at least branded accurately, compared to ‘Melbourne’ who are that by name only……….

          • September 26th 2017 @ 11:32pm
            Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

            Try telling any Victorian fan that. As far as they are concerned the Storm are well and truly Victorian. The club is growing in the State despite the very heavy dominance of AFL. Just because they can pick up discards and juniors and turn them into superstars has many from NSW as Jealous as hel l.

            Despite being in AFL country, the Storm are showing Sydney clubs how it is done.

            • September 27th 2017 @ 7:26am
              republican said | September 27th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

              ……..present us with a list of home grown Vic’s who are represented at the highest tier of the code then.
              This is a plastic entity, that has been afforded great advantage financially, however you like to pitch it, akin to GWS.
              ‘The Storm’ have been based in Melbourne for a significant number of years now yet there is very little to show for this at the GR – and thats the truth of the matter.
              The Storm are simply another commercially concocted strategy that creates the illusion of a codes status, through television as opposed from the ground up………..

              • September 28th 2017 @ 12:20am
                Dean said | September 28th 2017 @ 12:20am | ! Report

                Yahda, Yahda, Yahda. Jealousy is a curse. You really need to get that out of your system loser. Hahaha

      • September 26th 2017 @ 4:29pm
        Speep said | September 26th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

        I’m not sure. Definitely put storm as favourites but this will come down to the last 20 IMO. If cows complete their sets as usual then the first hour should be a real close battle, maybe with a few lucky tries scored throughout for each team. Storm should win the arm wrestle eventually but the scores could remain close…..

        • Columnist

          September 26th 2017 @ 8:10pm
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

          I agree with this. If its close heading into the final 20 when JT comes on for his final stint, I’m backing the Cowboys.

      • September 26th 2017 @ 5:43pm
        Wayne Turner said | September 26th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

        I agree.

    • September 26th 2017 @ 7:16am
      AGO74 said | September 26th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      In my opinion the two most consistent and competitive teams all year are the in the GF. The storm is obviously a no-brainer re consistency given their win/loss record but with the cowboys it is perhaps less obvious re consistency – but even during their wretched run in when they only won 2 of 10 (or something like that) they were competitive and had major effort in virtually every game. It seems now that September has hit they’ve converted that competitiveness and consistency to another level and start winning games as they beat 3 teams in eels roosters and sharks who have shown flashes of brilliance but each have been undone by inconsistncy all year (despite their superior records to the cowboys).

      Go the cows – sorry Mary, a team with Cameron smith in it just can’t be a fairytale!

      • Columnist

        September 26th 2017 @ 9:17am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        AG074 – Just re your last line… it’s funny I think both sides have an element of fairytale to them, but I agree the Cowboys one is waaaaaaay better.

    • September 26th 2017 @ 7:20am
      Alan said | September 26th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      I hope you’re right Mary, it will be the fairytale to end all fairytales.

      • Columnist

        September 26th 2017 @ 9:18am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Until Parramatta finally win one… 😛

        • September 26th 2017 @ 11:41am
          matth said | September 26th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          That won;t be a fairytale, that is a fantasy.

    • Roar Guru

      September 26th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Nat said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      All logic suggests the Storm will getaway with this one as they don’t have the individual deficiencies the Cowboys were able to exploit in the other teams. Morgan’s 40/20 was a cracker but Slater is rarely out of position. The outside backs are a solid match up with Chambers the better attacker and Fox has the pace over Winterstein. The backs were the difference last time they met with the Storm’s 2,3,5 scoring all their tries. The Hooker match with be interesting with the game’s best controller vs an attacking opportunist. It will be interesting to see if JT13 can crack 200m again. I believe their last encounter was the last time he has restricted to a mere 167m (although he made 300m in Rd 15). It won’t be a game of bash and smash but a game of chess and one I am looking forward too.

      • September 26th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Peter Phelps said | September 26th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Fully agree with that, it should be a good tactical game with plenty of skills on show.

      • September 26th 2017 @ 1:35pm
        Rob said | September 26th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        In regards to Slaters ability to get to kicks on the full. Slater said himself on the weekend that Morgan has brought something very different to the Cowboys kicking game. He basically said he was able to read almost every kicker from habits but Morgan is kicking with so much variety and power his job diffusing his kicks will be a challenge on it’s own. Billy likes to catch the ball on the run but thoses floating torpedos from 50 out have often been dropped by the million miles an hour Billy the kid. JT has never had that weapon.

        • September 26th 2017 @ 2:31pm
          Raugeee said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          The Cowboys wonderful completion rate in each of the finals has been matched by a woeful completion rate from the opposition.CB 90% > Roosters 68%; CB 85% > Eels 74%; CB 80% > Sharks 60%. Storms has been 82% & 79% for its final matches, this aught to be enough to cancel out any huge benefit to the Cowboys.

      • September 26th 2017 @ 2:58pm
        Griffo said | September 26th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        Morgan caught out Slater for a 40/20 last time they met. There is an element of unknown about the Cowboys. Now thier attack has clicked into gear, how good can they be?

    • September 26th 2017 @ 8:55am
      KingCowboy said | September 26th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      This article confirms why you are the best writer on the Roar Mary!

      Cows have been great this year but we have to take it to the next level to beat the Storm. We need a massive game from Martin and Hess. Can’t ask anymore out of Morgs and Lolo, so our “2nd tier”players are where it will be won.
      Cows by 10

      • Columnist

        September 26th 2017 @ 9:18am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 26th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        All the best King Cowboy! Just try to enjoy every moment.

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