You can’t say North Queensland have got no chance of beating Melbourne in the grand final, but they don’t look to have a big one. So what is their best bet?
A great team performance would be good enough to at least make it interesting, but they need more than that if they are to genuinely hope to win.
Michael Morgan has to produce close enough to a ten-out-of-ten performance.
Even that might still not be enough against this fantastic Storm side, but at least it would create the possibility of an upset.
The Cowboys have been excellent throughout the finals, but there has been an element of the opposition making a significant contribution to their own demise in each of their three games.
Cronulla should have beaten them four times, but the problems that had dogged them all season – poor discipline, high mistake rate, failure to take advantage of opportunities – ultimately brought them undone. The Sharks completed at just 60 per cent, made 17 errors and conceded 11 penalties.
Parramatta made 13 errors against North Queensland and their lack of finals experience against a Cowboys team with plenty of survivors from the line-up that won the premiership just two years ago hit home. The Eels made too many poor choices.
Sydney Roosters? Well, it was the sort of performance their fans would have been dreading as a possibility and just hoping didn’t materialise. Drifting in and out of the game, 68 per cent completion rate, 13 errors.
The Roosters ran second to runaway minor premiers the Storm in the regular season, but the results right across the finals series have just confirmed what most people thought – that outside of the Storm there wasn’t a lot between the rest of the teams in the top eight.
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The Cowboys have gone on a splendid post-season run and it has taken them all the way to the grand final. They have remained committed and concentrated hard for the 80 minutes each time they have played.
They refuse to go away, but that won’t be enough against Melbourne because there is no way the Storm will beat themselves.
Craig Bellamy’s men are a better side now than the one that narrowly lost last year’s grand final to Cronulla in a game that went down to the final play, which wasn’t completed until after the siren.
Billy Slater is back at fullback and in great form. Cameron Munster is in the position that suits him best, five-eighth, and has also graduated to become a State of Origin player, as has reserve forward Tim Glasby. Big Nelson Asofa-Solomona is a tremendous addition to the bench.
Melbourne are hot favourites. Their superstar players – not just Slater, but hooker Cameron Smith and halfback Cooper Cronk – are all in superb touch. They have been such a dominant force this season it will be considered a massive opportunity lost if they don’t win against a team that is minus superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston and champion prop Matt Scott.
That sort of pressure could bring a team undone if they were susceptible to it, but the Storm aren’t that sort of team.
If the Cowboys are going to win, they’re going to have to do it all themselves and at least one of their players will have to produce an extraordinary performance.
Some might say Jason Taumalolo could be that main man, but, really, it has to be Morgan. He has become the team’s chief architect, the main influence in the absence of Thurston. He’s the one who can make huge plays happen.
Morgan has risen to new heights recently and was outstanding against the Roosters, but this will be the biggest challenge of his career so far.