The 2009 grand-finalists Melbourne and Parramatta have very different styles, and that will dictate how they approach the game this Sunday.
They play two contrasting styles. Melbourne are very clinical in everything they do. They run their set pieces and aim to get their big guns in Billy Slater and Greg Inglis one-on-one with the opposition.
Everyone has a job to do and they’re very clinical in their approach to the game.
In the first two semi-finals they really haven’t been pushed and that’s the only real fault with their preparation. They haven’t been tested in their past four games. Their last two competition games were big wins, and both this year’s finals games have been at home and again they’ve won pretty easily. They’ll be up in Sydney for their first game away from home in a while and most of the crowd will be going for Parramatta.
The Eels have a very laidback approach which is reflected in one of their leaders, Nathan Hindmarsh. He is a very laidback character – ice wouldn’t melt in his mouth, he’s that cool. That’s the way Parramatta approach their footy. I don’t think I’ve seen a more impressive performance than last week against the Bulldogs when players weren’t even looking, they were just throwing the ball out the back and there was always someone to collect it. That doesn’t just happen - it’s hard to get that feeling in a team where you just know without seeing that someone is there. That’s confidence and that’s the way they’re playing at the moment.
The biggest benefit for Melbourne is their extensive grand final experience. Parramatta are more match-hardened but Melbourne has the experience of all those guys that have played in the past three grand finals, as well as their coach. They’ll have their travel plans sorted out, the Grand Final Breakfast won’t be new to them, and they’re away from the media hype down there. They got belted in the grand final last year so they’ll be smarting from that as well.
It’s definitely a huge advantage for them given they haven’t had to do much travel over the past few weeks and they haven’t played in a high pressure match like the Eels.
Defence wins big games and the Eels are backing themselves to defend any errors that they make, basically. They shouldn’t change too much. Melbourne are one of the best defensive sides in the competition so you’ve got to take a calculated risk with them and I’m sure Parramatta will. They’re not going to play conservatively.
It’s hard to find a weakness in Parramatta, they’ve won 10 out of 11 games leading up to the grand final. When we played them a couple of weeks ago we worked really hard on trying to make Jarryd Hayne work hard getting to kicks. He always gets Parramatta into the game because he brings the ball back so strongly and takes the juice out of the defenders. I think they’ll be trying to kick early to get Hayne working hard for the ball and make that his effort for the six. Give him the ball where you want him, not where he wants to get it.
The same goes with Billy Slater, he’s confident and in great form. There is an Australian fullback jersey up for grabs so they’ll both be going for that.
My tip for the grand final is Melbourne. They’ve been impressive in their past two games against quality sides in Manly and then Brisbane, who were in great form as well. If there is a question mark it is that Parramatta are more match-hardened, and that may get them across the line.