Top 5 Storm-Sharks showdowns
The Storm and Sharks don't have the same storied rivalry as some of the grand finalists in years gone by, but that hasn't stopped them from producing some captivating contests in recent times. Here's a look at the top five meetings between the 2016 grand final combatants.
Preliminary final, 2008: Storm 28-0
What better way to kick-off the countdown with the only finals meeting between the sides. This was a match the Storm had no right to win. But win they did. And they did it comfortably. After losing to the Warriors in week one of the finals, the minor premiers were forced to travel to Suncorp Stadium to take on the Broncos in a replay of the 2006 decider. It took an 80th-minute try to Greg Inglis for the Storm to escape with one of the greatest wins in club history, but the two-point triumph came at a cost with skipper Cameron Smith suspended for the rest of the season for a grapple tackle. A preliminary final against the refreshed Sharks beckoned, and sans Smith, the Storm were tipped to struggle. It took just four minutes for them to dispel those fears as Cooper Cronk sliced straight through and delivered an inch-perfect kick on the run to set up Steve Turner for first points. Further four-pointers to Adam Blair and Israel Folau gave them a commanding 16-0 lead at the break, and by the time veteran Matt Geyer touched down, the game was well and truly over.
Round 10, 2012: Sharks 12-10
This was a game the Sharks were never meant to win. Facing their sixth straight loss against a Storm side gunning for a perfect 10 from 10 to start the season, the men from the Shire were dealt a huge blow when skipper Paul Gallen was ruled out before kick-off. All signs pointed to another Melbourne romp when Dane Nielsen scored early. But the Sharks stuck solid and levelled things up two minutes later through Isaac Gordon. A try to Matt Duffie put the Storm back in control, but the Melbournians simply couldn't find a way to put the dogged Sharks away. Spurred on by 14,595 fans who could all sense something special unfolding, the Sharks turned to former Storm player Jeremy Smith to get them home. The stand-in skipper capped a man-of-the-match performance to burrow over from dummy-half to level the scores before Todd Carney stepped up to knock over the clutch conversion to seal the famous win.
Round 25, 2012: Storm 20-18
2012 was the year of the Monday night comeback, and it was fitting that the last instalment of the season would produce another classic finish. This was by no means a quality contest as both teams coughed up plenty of ball for the first 77 minutes of the match. Ahead 18-10 with two minutes left, the Sharks should have ground out the upset win. But give the Storm a sniff and they'll make you pay. Ryan Hoffman got the show started when he turned a nothing play on the last tackle into a try to cut Cronulla's lead to two points. And if the Rabbitohs-Roosters rivalry of that year taught us anything, we should have known we were in for something special. From the kick-off, the Storm threw plenty at the Sharks for the first four tackles with Billy Slater almost sending Cooper Cronk over. From the following play, Storm winger Sisa Waqa caught the markers napping, shooting out to the short side where he dragged in the defence to give Will Chambers a saloon passage to the line to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Round 2, 2008: Sharks 17-16
This was the day the Sharks confirmed themselves as genuine title contenders. Having knocked off the Sea Eagles in Round 1, Cronulla turned their attention to the other 2007 grand finalists in a Sunday afternoon thriller most remembered for Brett White and Ben Ross being sent off. The pair were given their marching orders after Ross collected Cooper Cronk with a late elbow and White reacted with a flurry of punches 15 minutes from full-time. Forgotten in the mayhem of the mid-field melee, Israel Folau had flown high to reel in his halfback's kick to score and make it 16-all. Having trailed 14-0 after 11 minutes, Cameron Smith had the chance to give his side the lead but his sideline conversion bounced back off the uprights to keep the scores level. The match looked destined for golden point until former Storm halfback Brett Kimmorley landed a 35-metre field goal in the 79th minute to hand Melbourne its first loss at Olympic Park in over a year.
Round 1, 2003: Storm 36-32
This game had more storylines than the back page of a Sunday newspaper. Melbourne's biggest comeback, Billy Slater's debut and Craig Bellamy's first game as an NRL head coach. Either way you look at it, this was an afternoon to remember. Slater - the 19-year-old formerly employed by Gai Waterhouse - was named at centre but played on the wing and would have loved to have been anywhere but Shark Park when the hosts raced out to a 22-0 lead in the first half courtesy of tries to David Peachey, Jason Stevens, Phil Bailey and Greg Bird. But the Storm mounted a stirring comeback to somehow steal the two competition points. Steve Bell scored a hat-trick, Matt Geyer nabbed a double, but it was Slater's scintillating 60-metre dash out of dummy-half that swung the momentum Melbourne's way. It took a freakish bit of play at the death to seal the result, with a Kimmorley grubber coming off legs into the arms of Peter Robinson, who passed to Bell, before the centre released Geyer for the match-winner to break Cronulla hearts.