Ennis: How to limit Smith's impact
It's impossible to stop him but former Sharks premiership winner Michael Ennis says the Cowboys must be ruthless in attacking Cameron Smith in defence if they hope to limit his impact in Sunday's Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
Crowned the Dally M Player of the Year on Wednesday night for the second time, Smith is a raging hot $2.50 favourite to complete an astonishing season with a Clive Churchill Medal at ANZ Stadium but writing in the official Big League Grand Final souvenir program Ennis reveals how the Sharks dulled his influence 12 months ago.
In last year's grand final Smith was forced to make a season-high 73 tackles in the middle of the field – 30 more than his season average of 42.9 – and Ennis is adamant that his enormous workrate was no fluke.
"Whenever you play Melbourne, Cameron Smith is your man," said Ennis, who opposed Smith 21 times in his 14-year career for eight wins and 13 losses.
"He's the orchestrator and mastermind of their attack. Cooper Cronk is a very good operator – he'll kick you into corners all day and execute everything that's asked of him – but in terms of creativity, Cameron is the go-to man.
"He made more than 70 tackles in the grand final last year and it was no surprise. I spoke all week to our big guys about Smith and needing to fatigue him and put him under pressure.
"You'll never take him out of a game, but you can try and limit his impact. We did our best, but he still set up a try and both he and Cronk were there in the dying stages with their hands on the ball.
"They were coming for us. They're such experienced players that they know what to expect of you."
In addition to last year's decider Ennis faced off against the Storm in the 2012 Grand Final whilst at the Bulldogs and believes the Cowboys have shown enough throughout the finals series to suggest they can go with Melbourne until the 80th minute.
"Last year at Cronulla, we went after them and we sustained that intensity for 80 minutes," Ennis writes in the Grand Final program.
"Even though they came back at us, we were so determined and desperate to win that I knew we weren't going to crumble.
"We were always going to keep coming and that mindset is what it takes to have a chance against this Melbourne juggernaut and it'll be the aim for North Queensland.
"In order to beat them, you can't sit back and allow Melbourne to dictate terms.
"As good as Melbourne are, the past few weeks the Cowboys have shown that they're willing to do that too. They don't turn the football over cheaply and their completions have been high during this finals series.
"They have the two form players in the competition in Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo, and when you have guys like that in your team, their confidence becomes infectious."
Big League's Grand Final souvenir issue looks at the incredible 15-year journey shared by Storm superstars Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, how 2017 could prove to be Paul Green's greatest coaching success, the ultimate grand final quiz along with the top eight grand final plays of all time, a flashback to the grand finals of 1987 and 1997 and a tribute to this year's group of retiring players. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league and at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.