Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 1 October, 7.30pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 25, Cowboys 10
Last time we met: Round 22, 2017 – Melbourne 26 def Cowboys 8 at 1300SMILES Stadium
TV: Channel NINE
Start the key
The start of this Grand Final could well decide the outcome of the game. Storm Football Director Frank Ponissi said on Wednesday that the team lost year’s Grand Final inside the opening 20 minutes. A slow start left them playing a game of catch up, which they ultimately fell short of. The stats this season should give the purple army hope; Melbourne are the best starting team in the NRL, scoring a total of 20 tries inside the first 10 minutes of each game, the most of any other team. In comparison the Cowboys have scored just seven in the first 10 minutes.
Control the ball, control the game
North Queensland have been able to stave off elimination three weeks in a row by simply holding onto the football. The Cowboys have had at least 55% of possession in all three victories over the Sharks, Eels and Roosters. Once they gain control of the football Paul Green’s men refuse to let it go. Their completion rate has not dropped below 80% throughout this year’s finals series. Last week against the Roosters they were devastatingly clinical, up at 90 per cent completion with just five errors. Storm have the best defence in the competition and have shown in recent weeks their ability to defend for long periods of time. There is no doubt they would prefer to match North Queensland in the possession game rather than absorb pressure. If they are able to do that, it will take away a significant advantage the Cowboys have had in recent weeks.
Bounce back effect
The previous two occasions Storm have lost a Grand Final the side has bounced back to win it the following year. The men in purple did that in 2007 and again in 2009. Melbourne fell short by just two points in last year’s premiership decider and 11 of the players who played that day will be back to try and reverse that result. Hopefully history can repeat itself once again.
Jason “The Tank” Taumalolo
Big games are won by big men and if Storm can contain the opposition’s main man it will go a long way to ensuring the result tips in their favour. Taumalolo is their barometer up the middle, running for more than 240 metres in all three finals so far. He ran riot against Storm back in Round 15 when he finished with 300 metres. However in the return bout in Round 22 Melbourne restricted him to just 164m, well short of his season average of 210. Fingers crossed the Storm coaching staff has found a solution to stopping the Kiwi enforcer, we will have 80 nail-biting minutes to find out.