THE contrasting journeys of the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys to this year’s NRL Grand Final have created a mouth-watering encounter this Sunday night at ANZ Stadium.
Both teams are thoroughly deserving of their place in the decider, but for entirely different reasons. Melbourne has spent over a month at home, enjoyed a week off and cruised to a Preliminary Final win over Brisbane, while the Cowboys have been on the road and continually forced to defy the odds to win their way to the big dance.
Such wildly different lead ups have created an intriguing encounter on paper. The Storm have been the standard-bearers all season, losing just four games all season including twice when gutted by Origin selections. They have sat atop the NRL ladder since Round 8, possess the competition’s most miserly defence and will arguably the best spine in rugby league history on Sunday night. They are deserved 10.5 point favourites.
The flip side is that throughout this finals series the Cowboys have proven that prior form can often count for very little – and the markets are capable of being wrong. In all three fixtures they have started at odds greater than $3.00 but have simultaneously beaten Cronulla, Parramatta and the Roosters on the back of gritty teamwork and some moments of magic orchestrated by halfback revelation Michael Morgan. They will require another special performance from him to break down the Storm and take home the trophy.
But despite the Cowboys’ determined efforts, it is impossible to go past Melbourne. History tells us that the superior defence wins Premierships and they’re the competition’s top try-scoring team too. With Cooper Cronk playing his Storm swan song and Billy Slater’s future up in the air, Melbourne will be primed to deliver one last surge. This is their match to lose.
Betting tip: Melbourne -10.5 @ $1.95