MELBOURNE AND NORTH QUEENSLAND TO FIGHT FOR PREMIERSHIP GLORY
The 2017 NRL Season has just one game to go, and it’s the most important game of the season. The game that all 16 teams strive to get to, the Grand Final. Each year, one team creates history on the first Sunday in October, and this year will be no different.
Both the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys will do just that this Sunday night at ANZ Stadium, as they battle to become Premiers for 2017.
This is back to back Grand Final appearances for the Melbourne Storm, as they tasted defeat in the 2016 decider 14-12 to the Cronulla Sharks. This is their eighth Grand Final appearance in their history, and their last title came in 2012 when they defeated the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14-4.
For the North Queensland Cowboys, it is their second Grand Final appearance in three years, after winning the 2015 Grand Final 17-16 over the Brisbane Broncos. This is their third Grand Final in their history, with their first in 2005, losing to the Wests Tigers.
Melbourne finished first in the competition, and proved why they are the best team, downing Parramatta 18-16, and Brisbane 30-0 in the Finals. The game will mark Cooper Cronk’s last game for the club, and there are questions whether he will retire or join another club. Jordan McLean, Tohu Harris and Slade Griffin, will also be playing their last games for the club. Cronk and Billy Slater will make a decision on their future, following the Grand Final.
“It hurt not playing last year and the year before. To see my team play in big games certainly lit the fire to get back and want to be part of it again. I didn’t fear the premiership opportunity. I feared my body wouldn’t let me play again. That was a concern for me, physically I didn’t know where my body was at” Slater said
North Queensland got to the Grand Final the hard way. After losing both captains, Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, the critics were quick to write off their premiership credentials this year, but now they sit just 80 minutes away from their second title in three years. They also had to rely on the Bulldogs defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons in the final round, just to make the finals. In their road to the Grand Final, the defeated defending Premiers, the Cronulla Sharks 15-14 in the Elimination Final, beat fourth placed Parramatta Eels 24-16 in the Semi Final, and upset the Sydney Roosters 29-16 in the Preliminary Final. The Cowboys did this on the back of the in-form Michael Morgan, and powerful runner, Jason Taumalolo.
The Cowboys will be looking to make history, being the first team outside the top four to win the Premiership since the Bulldogs in 1995. It is also the first time an eighth placed team has made the Grand Final since 2009, when Jarryd Hayne led the Parramatta Eels to the Grand Final from eighth. This is the first time first will meet eighth in a Grand Final.
“Hopefully we’re better, because hopefully we win. I’d rather win, you don’t want to come all this way and lose. I’ll take it after Sunday, if we win.”
“There has been a lot of talk, about myself and Jason but I don’t believe that at all. We play a role within the team, myself I touch the ball a lot more than the other guys, but I’m not the one who’s making 40 tackles, and taking the tough carries out of our end. Without guys willing to do that and willing to do that job for the team, you can’t be successful.” Morgan said
The Storm and Cowboys met twice during the season, with both teams depleted due to State of Origin in the first game. The Storms first won 23-22 at AAMI Park, Melbourne and the second time, a strong start from the Cowboys was not enough, as the Storm eventually ran away with a 26-8 victory at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville.
They have never met in a Grand Final, although they have met in Finals before. The Cowboys held a 2-1 advantage, with wins in the 2005 Semi Final and the 2015 Preliminary Final, while the Storm won in the 2016 Qualifying Final.
Cooper Cronk has the most Grand Final experience, with 7 appearances, while there are 11 players remaining from last year’s side, that lost the Grand Final to Cronulla. North Queensland have 12 of 17 players remaining from their Grand Final win in 2015 over the Brisbane Broncos.
NRL 2017 Grand Final Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys, Sunday 7.15pm, ANZ Stadium
Melbourne Storm North Queensland Cowboys
1 Billy Slater 1 Lachlan Coote
2 Suliasi Vunivalu 2 Kyle Feldt
3 Will Chambers 3 Justin O’Neill
4 Curtis Scott 4 Kane Linnett
5 Josh Addo-Carr 5 Antonio Winterstein
6 Cameron Munster 6 Te Maire Martin
7 Cooper Cronk 7 Michael Morgan
8 Jesse Bromwich 8 John Asiata
9 Cameron Smith (captain) 9 Jake Granville
10 Jordan McLean 10 Scott Bolton
11 Felise Kaufusi 11 Gavin Cooper (captain)
12 Tohu Harris 12 Ethan Lowe
13 Dale Finucane 13 Jason Taumalolo
14 Kenny Bromwich 14 Ben Hampton
15 Tim Glasby 15 Coen Hess
16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16 Corey Jensen
17 Slade Griffin 17 Shaun Fensom
18 Ryley Jacks 18 Ray Thompson
19 Robbie Rochow 19 Javid Bowen
20 Joe Stimson 20 Braden Uele
21 Young Tonumaipea 21 Matt Scott
Coach Craig Bellamy Coach Paul Green
(Both teams will reduce to 17 before kickoff on Sunday night)
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Gerard Sutton
NRL Grand Final Day Schedule 2017 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
6.30pm Pre-Match Entertainment with Macklemore and Tribute to Retiring Players
9.30pm Post Match Presentation, and Lap of Honour by 2017 Premiers!