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Melbourne dominated the big moments and their class prevailed as they secured what should go down as the most special of their six premierships.

But make no mistake: the young Panthers will win a title in the near future and they would have gained a lot from Sunday's grand final.

Craig Bellamy now has an undeniable case for being the greatest coach of all time, while Cameron Smith - the greatest player - was masterful at controlling things in the 26-20 win.

However, I didn't think the Storm were necessarily the best team for long periods. The Panthers had the upper hand emotionally at times, but couldn't execute on their chances - which Melbourne did.

Bellamy says 2020 title most likely his best

Penrith's halves, Nathan Cleary and, in particular, Jarome Luai will have learned from the tough experience.

Jarome took a while to find a groove. I know Penrith wanted to get second-rower Viliame Kikau into the game, but I would've liked to have seen Luai run the ball more himself with his dangerous ad-lib style.

Nathan probably went into his shell a bit. His first attacking kick wasn't a great one, and although he adjusted, things didn't go to plan.

That was highlighted by the pass he threw which Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted to score leading up to half-time. All week Penrith would have spoken about passing short and getting to the outside that way.

Ultimately, it was the play that swung the match firmly in the Storm's favour as they went to a 16-0 lead. I don't think Melbourne would have allowed a try to be scored after the ball was intercepted.

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Nathan and Jarome both had outstanding seasons and they'll continue to lead the Panthers into an era of great success.

Going back to the start of the match, Penrith earning possession right away after the Storm bungled the kick-off was perhaps the worst result for the minor premiers.

Their first set was very conservative, as though they were shocked by having the ball, compared to their normal style. That worried me. I knew the Storm would hold out for long periods.

Melbourne then found their rhythm and scored a penalty try through Justin Olam when Tyrone May dislodged the ball with his boot.

I thought the correct call was made. Unfortunately for Tyrone, the move to start him in the centres again didn't really pay off.

Penrith wrestled back momentum and had plenty of intensity but couldn't break Melbourne's line down. The Storm strangled them with a couple of penalty goals before Vunivalu's try.

And then Smith went over after Api Koroisau swiped at the ball and knocked it loose.

Smith's cheeky answer to 'that' question

The slow start and a multitude of errors cruelled the Panthers. They did the same throughout the finals, conceding the first try to the Roosters and Rabbitohs as well, but it really hurt them on the big stage against a champion team.

After deserved Clive Churchill Medal winner Ryan Papenhuyzen burned past May and Cleary to claim a long-range try, the Panthers side that won 17 straight games turned up for half an hour.

They shouldn't have been awarded a try to Brian To'o. Isaah Yeo ran behind his player and took an advantage before kicking - if he had've passed it wouldn't have been a four-pointer.

Conceding 20 points in quick time to finish the game wasn't very Melbourne-like, but they very much deserved their win. Smith gave Penrith a masterclass in staying composed no matter the situation.

Halfback Jahrome Hughes was fantastic, as was Papenhuyzen, while five-eighth Cameron Munster just did his job.

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If someone said a few years ago that the Storm would win another premiership after legends Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater left, I don't think many would have believed it.

But Craig and Cameron continue to find new ways to win. And this time it was in extraordinary circumstances given they've been based on the Sunshine Coast since June due to COVID-19's impact.

I've praised the Warriors for saving the competition and so many jobs with what they scarified this season, but Melbourne are right there with them.

The Storm don't always get their due credit or accolades because they're forever at the top. It's tall-poppy syndrome - many people want to see someone else win.

But the 2020 title will be the one that is talked about for years. The one that proved they could do it anywhere, anytime, against anyone with everything on the line. A remarkable effort.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.