Grand Final Flashback - 2012
The Grand Final that had it all.
In 2012 Melbourne Storm rolled into ANZ Stadium to face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were the fairytale story, having clinched their first minor premiership since 1994 and experiencing their first Grand Final in 18 years.
Melbourne on the other hand were preparing for their fifth premiership decider in seven seasons.
Storm had been through it all in recent years but this day was their day for redemption.
The pundits all but wrote off Craig Bellamy’s men after they dropped five consecutive games in the second half of the season.
Melbourne went into the game with six of its players having previous Grand Final experience, five fewer than the side that will run out on Sunday night.
There was plenty of nervous tension in the air as 83,000 fans were in full voice for the spectacle.
The purple contingent did not have to wait long to find reason to cheer, as Gareth Widdop passed off for a Ryan Hoffman in just the seventh minute of the game.
Storm proceeded to pile on the pressure for the first 20 minutes however to their credit the Bulldogs defence stood firm, repelling four consecutive sets.
They then found their own way over, crossing in the left corner. An all-in scuffle then ensued with James Graham taking things a little too far.
That seemed to spring the Melbourne boys into action and seven minutes later they scored courtesy of one of the greatest passes you will see in rugby league.
Cooper Cronk threw a no-look pass that sent Billy Slater over the line and the purple faithful into hysterics.
Cronk was not done there though and with less than two minutes remaining in the first half he turned to the air to produce his next assist.
A perfectly weighted chip kick fell straight into the arms of a high-flying Justin O’Neill who grounded to give Melbourne a 14-4 half-time lead.
After doing the damage on the scoreboard in the first half the remaining 40 minutes was about producing a 40 minutes master class.
That is precisely was Storm set about doing in.
The tone was set by the Storm skipper in the opening minutes following the restart when Michael Ennis dove for the line out of dummy half, only to be held up at the line by a determined Cameron Smith.
This was only one example of an inspired Storm defence.
Billy Slater’s chase down on Josh Morris, Ben Barba being mowed down by three purple jerseys, it was all part of a magical night for the purple army.
That final 40 minutes may have been scoreless but they would not have had it any other way.
The 2012 premiership was coming to Melbourne with the road to redemption complete.
Now the men in purple will be back with the same opportunity on Sunday night against the Cowboys. Here is hoping for the same result.