Voss: Why Melbourne will win the big one
Andrew Voss on which team has the edge in the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final, the key players for both sides, the Dally M race, where the Cowboys must improve next season and more.
Who will win the big one?
Not that my tipping has been all that flash during the finals series, but I like Melbourne to snare another premiership this Sunday night.
Their best defence statistic is a hard one to go past, conceding under 13 points a game this season. The big two, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, are still in their prime. Around them is a confident and talented bunch coached by a modern master in Craig Bellamy.
Cronulla has enjoyed a super season, regaining form in the playoffs. To hear the 'Up Up Cronulla' song playing at full-time on Sunday would be some occasion. Perhaps a win at last in their 50th year is their destiny.
And here's one for Cronulla fans. A big statistic in the Sharks favour is that in the top-eight era, a side that finished third has never lost when making a grand final. The record is five from five, including the Cowboys last season.
Who are the X-factors for the big one?
For Cronulla, I have no doubt that Andrew Fifita is a key figure. His tackle busting ability and especially his offloading can really make a mark on the Storm defence.
Grand finals traditionally don't offer up too many scoring chances. It may just be a Fifita offload that creates a try for Shane Flanagan's team. Fifita needs to back up his season stats that have him in the top three for both offloads and metres made per game.
Looking outside Cronk and Smith for Melbourne, I think Blake Green can have a big influence on the result.
When the Storm beat the Sharks in the minor premiership showdown in Round 26, they did more damage attacking on Green's left side of the field pressuring the likes of Chad Townsend and Jack Bird in defence.
It will be quite a feather in the cap of Green if he can be a part of an NRL grand final-winning side having already won a Super League grand final – and been man of the match in that game – for Wigan.
Who wins the Dally M?
It's a great race this year, but I'll tip Melbourne's Cooper Cronk. As a matter of fact he might even take the Dally M/Clive Churchill Medal double this week.
Like most, I expect the Cowboys' Jason Taumalolo to poll well, while the one-game suspension of the Raiders' Josh Hodgson is likely to have cost the Englishman a shot at the medal.
For the record again, I am totally opposed to the deduction of points for matches while under suspension.
Loading, carry-over points, early pleas and guilty verdicts should not impact on our most prestigious award. A player can be guilty of the same offence as another player yet because one takes the early plea and the other doesn't, the one who serves a ban is deducted Dally M points. It makes no sense at all to me.
How should we rate the Cowboys' season?
However the old adage of it's harder to defend a grand final than to win one still rings true.
Where Paul Green needs to assess his team's year is their poor away record.
In 2015, they won 11 matches away from Townsville and lost only four.
This season it was virtually the reverse, winning just four and losing 10, including last Friday night's defeat at the hands of Cronulla.
To ram home the point, the two grand finalists this weekend won 17 games away from their home ground between them in 2016. (Storm 10, Sharks 7)
And significantly when assessing such an elite side, only the Dragons, Roosters and Knights won less games on the road this season.
What about a salute to a retiring player abroad?
For a wonderful rugby league success story, look to former Manly and Roosters playmaker Luke Dorn.
Many of you had probably forgotten about Luke who was an Australian Schoolboys representative way back in 2000 before playing 38 NRL games across three seasons with the Northern Eagles, Manly and the Roosters.
For the last 12 years he has made a living playing rugby league in the UK for London, Salford and Castleford for whom he played his last game on the weekend. It was only fitting he marked his final appearance with a try as the Tigers beat Widnes.
Rugby league is not the world game, nor does it have the reach of even rugby union. That is a fact. But Dorn is proof you can have a career on both sides of the world.
For the record his career first grade stats finished at 15 seasons, 190 tries, 316 games.
And what's more he will return home in 2017 to play for his junior club, the Maitland Pickers. How good is that!
How good are the curtain raisers on grand final day?
We really have got it right with the Intrust Super State Championship Final being played on our biggest day. The clash of the Burleigh Bears and the Illawarra Cutters should be a beauty.
So too the Holden Cup decider as the Panthers chase their third title in four years when they tackle the Roosters.
And to warm you up for grand final day, Fox Sports will also be screening the final of the GIO Schoolboy Cup this weekend.
At 9am on Saturday you can watch a classic decider between Westfields Sports High from the south west of Sydney, and Keebra Park High from the Gold Coast.
It really is a showcase of schoolboy footy at its best.
Have a great grand final weekend.