The Newsroom previews the 2016 NRL Grand Final between the Melbourne Storm and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
This is the final and pinnacle game of the 2016 NRL season. The Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks will battle it out on Sunday night for the Provan-Summons Trophy. The Storm are looking to win their third premiership while the Sharks are hoping to break a 49-year drought to win their maiden title.
The last time these two teams met was for the minor premiership in Round 26 when the Storm beat the Sharks 26-6. Melbourne enters this game with the same line-up as in last week’s preliminary final who also beat the Sharks in Round 26. But Storm coach Craig Bellamy has thrown in a curve ball, naming five additional players to his bench including Young Tonumaipea, Slade Griffin, Matt White, Felise Kaufusi and Ryan Morgan.
Melbourne has plenty of experience on its side when it comes to grand final football: halfback Cooper Cronk is set to play his sixth grand final and captain Cameron Smith his fifth. Cronk and Smith have more grand final experience between them than the entire Sharks 17, which can muster just eight finals between them.
The Sharks have made only one change to their winning side from last week. Sam Tagataese returns from a fractured shoulder blade and will play his first game in two months. The return of Tagataese pushes youngster Kurt Capewell to 18th man. Joseph Paulo joins the extended bench as 19th man.
Players to watch are the captains: Sharks skipper Paul Gallen and Storm captain Cameron Smith. They may play different positions but the rivalry between them goes deep and their leadership is what will win or lose the game. They have done battle many times as New South Wales and Queensland State of Origin captains. Smith has the edge over Gallen, beating him many times at both club and Origin level but Gallen will lead from the front to inspire his young Sharks. This is the highest-stake match between the pair. – Paul Burns
Photo of Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith from NRL – National Rugby League’s Facebook page.