Having tipped the Storm to win back to back premierships, I am still in shock at the hammering Manly dished out to Melbourne in the NRL Grand Final yesterday. In fact the victory was the largest winning margin of NRL Grand Final history, with a 40-0 thumping of the Storm.
It was a match that signalled the end of various careers, especially that of Steve Menzies (349 games) for Manly and Matt Geyer’s for Melbourne. Menzies (known as ‘Beaver’) completed his NRL career on top, while Mat Geyer will remember his last game as a heart-breaking loss.
Having been the best team in the competition until the final series, Melbourne began their fall from premiership glory with a loss to New Zealand in their first finals match of the season. Having barely defeated Brisbane in the following game, the Storm beat Cronulla before advancing to the Grand Final.
Questions are now being asked as to the immediate future of the Melbourne Storm – is this the beginning of the end of Melbourne’s NRL domination, will they make the finals next year, etc? However, all of this talk of a declining Melbourne side seems a little premature at this stage. Certainly they performed well below their best during the final series, but they remain a great side, though they will loose some great players before next season. Mat Geyer, Michael Crocker and Israel Folau will all be gone from the Storm next year.
The Manly side finished the year on the same points as Melbourne (as did Cronulla), though Melbourne were the Minor Premiers on for and against. Manly were the deserved winners of the Grand Final and were by far the superior team in the finals series.
BELOW: Cooper Cronk Speech after loosing the Grand Final
The Melbourne Storm have been criticised for months, even years, over the various tackling methods that they use. These methods have included the infamous grapple tackle, the chicken wing tackle and wrestling coaches to assist the Storm in tackling. With all of the controversy about the Storm and their tackling methods the Storm have largely ignored the warning signs and now are likely to suffer the consequences.
The Storm’s captain, Cameron Smith, tonight faces the NRL judiciary to answer for a grapple tackle in which he made ‘unnecessary contact with the head or neck’ of Sam Thaiday in last weekend’s elimination match with the Brisbane Broncos.
If found guilty, Smith faces a ban of two weeks, which would of course include the Grand Final should Melbourne defeat the Cronulla Sharks this weekend. If Melbourne is eliminated this weekend, the suspension would include the Australia v New Zealand World Cup opening match.
My tip would be that Cameron Smith will be suspended and will pay the consequences of ignoring the many warnings that have been sounded concerning the tackling methods of the Storm.
The video below, while not great, does show the tackle on Sam Thaiday:
After loosing to the New Zealand Warriors last week, the Melbourne Storm were facing elimination if they lost in tonight’s game against the Brisbane Broncos. The winner would be through to play the Cronulla Sharks next week in order to reach the Grand Final.
Last night saw the Warriors survive to fight another day and they will play the Manly Sea Eagles next week in order to reach the Grand Final.
Having trailed Brisbane all night, right through until the final seconds of the game, Melbourne managed to capitalise on a Brisbane mistake and score with only seconds to play. Melbourne had fought back from 12 – 0 down at half time to be trailing 14 – 12 with only seconds to play.
Somehow, having made it back deep into the Brisbane half, the Storm managed to score a try giving them an amazing 16 – 14 victory.
Earlier in the second half it appeared that Melbourne had scored a miracle try to hit the lead, only to have it disallowed and for Brisbane to be given a penalty instead. Replays suggested the ruling may have been correct, though the replays were in no way conclusive.
Brisbane were of course shattered by the late try, having already been convinced that they were about to win the game and progress to the next match. But it wasn’t to be and the season’s best team marches on and a possible defence of last year’s premiership title is still a possibility.
With the NRL final series now having arrived, it is now time to put my nominally followed team to bed – the Parramatta Eels. What a disappointment the Eels have been yet again! So much talent with so little performance was the result for 2008.
Already this weekend the Brisbane Broncos, Cronulla Sharks and the Manly Sea Eagles have won having defeated the Sydney City Roosters, the Canberra Raiders and the Saint George Dragons. This means that the Saint George Dragons are gone for this season. Remaining in the first weekend of the final series is the Melbourne Storm – New Zealand Warriors match, which has the minor premiers up against the team that pipped the Newcastle Knights for the final spot in the top 8 for 2008.
As has been my tip for the entire season it is difficult to go past the Melbourne Storm not only for the match today, but for the premiership title for 2008. There seems very little hope for the Warriors as they come up against the might of the Storm, a team which is a class above the others in the competition.
As I say, it is difficult to go past the Melbourne Storm for the title.
In the video below, the Melbourne Storm’s Billy Slater scores a hat trick of tries against the New Zealand Warriors in March 2008.