NRL.com columnist Andrew Voss on the chances of the Storm and Cowboys in this year's decider, the beaten preliminary finalists and the NRL exports thriving in the Super League.
Who wins the grand final?
It’s Melbourne for me.
As much as I have admired and enjoyed the Cowboys' run to the grand final, in some ways I think it would be an injustice if the Storm didn’t take the title.
Craig Bellamy’s men have been the standout team all season. They deserve to be crowned champion.
So lock in the Storm by 10. Suliasi Vunivalu for first try. Cameron Munster for the Clive Churchill Medal.
What will win it for the Storm?
They are as good, if not better than any side I have watched in the NRL era. I declare that the most likely team to beat the Storm… is the Storm.
I just think that if Melbourne play anywhere near their best, there is no opponent in this NRL competition that can beat them.
Melbourne tick every box. I can see them establishing a lead by half-time and being ruthless from that point on. They have front to back, wall to wall, big-match players.
What can win it for the Cowboys?
Carry on doing what they have been doing for the last three weeks is a great start. Limit the mistakes. Don’t give any cheap ball to the Storm.
I throw enormous pressure on the Cowboys' spine. Michael Morgan needs to be as good as he has been, but Jake Granville and Lachlan Coote need to also be at their best. All three were part of the 2015 grand final winning team. Then there is Te Maire Martin who showed with his try in the first half last week against the Roosters, he could be a bit of an X-factor if he backs his running game.
And if they happen to be in front or down by no more than six points going into the final 20, who is to say with great confidence they won’t pull off a win again.
I have tipped against North Queensland for three straight weeks. I’ve been wrong each time. I don’t think their great fans want me to pick them!
How do we rate the beaten preliminary finalists' seasons?
Understandably everyone involved with the Broncos and the Roosters were disappointed last weekend to be knocked out, however a top-four finish should be celebrated.
For the Broncos, It perhaps shows just how big the last five minutes of the opening game of the finals series was. Had Brisbane hung on to win, their preliminary final opponent would have been the Cowboys, who they had beaten in Round 26.
As for the Roosters, the 'kings of the close finish’ just couldn’t do it again in their biggest match of the year. Twelve errors against the Cowboys were far too many. I wouldn’t have had them beating the Storm in the GF, but I don’t think they would have been undeserving of a place in the final two.
Who are some of the NRL’s quiet-achieving exports?
There is actually a whole bunch of them.
Eight players who have turned out in the NRL at some stage in their careers, this week made the Super League Dream team of the Year.
Albert Kelly headlines the list as he is one of the contenders for the Man of Steel Award, but he’s joined in the Dream Team by Matt Parcell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Grant Millington and Mahe Fonua. Zak Hardaker and Greg Eden also made the side after brief stints in the NRL.
And Panthers fans, remember Jarrod Sammut? Jarrod last played in the NRL in 2009, but continues to enjoy a successful career in rugby league. This week he was named the London Broncos' player of the year.
Are you set for a huge Grand Final Day?
Just in case you are not aware, Fox League will be kicking off its Grand Final Day at 11am on Sunday.
We will be broadcasting the final of the GIO Cup. It is an outstanding schoolboy match, and a repeat of last year’s decider, with Keebra Park State High School tackling Westfields Sports High.
From there you can roll in to a repeat of the Sharks-Storm grand final of last year before the lower grades kick off at ANZ Stadium.
It is one of the great sporting days of the year folks. Enjoy it.