Voss: Grand Final's good, great and ugly
Andrew Voss rates the 2016 Telstra Premiership decider, takes a look at some of the key stats, reveals his favourite moments of the grand final, has some praise for the NRL and looks ahead to the Four Nations.
Where does the 2016 grand final rate?
I thought it was a terrific match. I particularly enjoyed the toughness of it. Cronulla were sensational on the big stage in the first half carrying out the age old game plan of "run hard, tackle hard" to a tee.
A completion rate of 19 from 21 was exactly what coach Shane Flanagan would have wished for to give his side the best chance of dictating terms against Melbourne, remembering that the Storm had been beaten only once this year after leading at halftime.
That the Storm found themselves in front for the first time in the 64th minute was some sort of miracle and a credit to the fighting qualities of Craig Bellamy's side.
However I will declare this; from the moment Andrew Fifita scored his unbelievable try with 11 minutes to go, the sporting theatre and frenzied attack was as about as good as it gets.
The 2016 decider in full, in my opinion, is not up there with last year's thriller, or the 1989 Canberra v Balmain decider, but the last 10 minutes are as exciting as I have ever witnessed on our biggest night.
What were the key stats, and what were the ones smashed to smithereens?
Lets start with the Sharks completion rate. 90 per cent in a grand final. Wow!
The Sharks forced the Storm into five line drop outs. Great pressure.
The hit ups both in quantity and quality of Sharks props Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior gave weight again to the argument about the key for victory in big games being the work up front.
The tackle count of Storm's Cameron Smith blew up my calculator!
Incredibly, the run of teams that finished third and played grand finals continues. The record is now six wins from six in the Top 8 era.
And as for the statistics and records condemned to history…
The Sharks' premiership drought is over in the club's 50th year.
On Sunday night, Cronulla became the first team in the compulsory grand final era (started 1954), to win the big one after managing just one victory from their last five regular season games.
Harold Holt can rest in peace. He doesn't need to come back. The Sharks have won a grand final.
What was your favourite moment of the grand final?
We all see the game through different eyes I guess, but I loved the Sharks producing the scrumbase try for Ben Barba in the first half.
The fact that only hooker Michael Ennis, Paul Gallen and Barba knew the play was on was subterfuge at its best. Even halfback Chad Townsend had to be pushed over for the play to unfold!
My second unforgettable moment came post-game with Cameron Smith's speech that acknowledged and paid tribute to Cronulla and its supporters.
This was as gracious and classy a display in defeat as I have seen or heard in sport, full stop.
Can we reserve some praise for the NRL too?
If you have read this column on a regular basis over the years you will know that I have a license to "call things as I see them", sometimes at the angst and opposition of the governing body.
This is a good thing, and to be honest I wouldn't want to write an opinion column under any other circumstances.
I have criticised where I have seen fit, but this week I want to pass on my praise to those at the NRL responsible for some of the grand final protocols we saw on Sunday night.
How good was it to have the two teams shake hands before kick off? Let this tradition now be set in stone for all time; as a matter of fact, why not before every game?
I thought the spotlight on the winning coach being called to stage before the players was a great moment.
And to have club greats Andrew Ettingshausen and Matt Geyer in attendance on stage was also a touch of class and added to the sense of occasion and history.
However, in keeping with my opening remarks to this piece… as for Richie Sambora, I would have been happy to drive him back to the airport Sunday night and wish him all the best for the future!
What happened to the minor premiers?
Well, they all had great years… and incredibly across our four tiers of competition, they were all beaten in grand finals.
In the NRL, it was Melbourne going down to Cronulla.
In the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland, Redcliffe couldn't get the job done against Burleigh.
In the Intrust Super Premiership in New South Wales, Mounties fell to the Illawarra Cutters.
While in the Holden Cup, the Sydney Roosters were giant killers on Sunday afternoon after rolling the runaway minor premiers Penrith.
If Warrington finish runners up to Wigan in the Super League grand final this weekend, that will complete the box set!
How good will the Four Nations be?
I say without a shadow of doubt that the international league coming up over the next two months will be the best post-season tournament we've witnessed.
New Zealand is well placed to defend its Four Nations title won in 2014.
Australia with the squad Mal Meninga has to work with, in contrast to the one selected two years ago, will be very hard to beat.
And who isn't intrigued by the start of the Wayne Bennett era with England?
Throw in Scotland competing on the big stage, and a Test for the Kangaroos against the Kiwis in Perth on the way.
Bring it on!
Last but not least, thanks for all the feedback you have provided on the column in 2016.
It's been one heck of a season for the greatest sport on earth. I can't remember a quiet week!