Top five Storm-Cowboys clashes
If the past clashes between the grand finalists are anything to go by then we should be in for a beauty on Sunday night. Here are five classic encounters between the Storm and the Cowboys to get you in the mood for the grand final.
5. Round 10, 2006: Storm 18-Cowboys 6
While it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment Melbourne's dominant reign in the NRL kicked into gear, this is as good a starting point as any. The Storm were smashed 40-8 in Townsville in Round 3 but headed into this Saturday night clash on a four-game winning streak against a Cowboys side that was starting to get the wobbles. It took 20 minutes for the Storm to get going but it was worth the wait as David Kidwell finished off a dazzling team try to bring the Olympic Park faithful to their feet. Further tries to Matt King and Cameron Smith put the result beyond doubt before Brenton Bowen got the visitors on the board at the death. It was a high-quality game with just three penalties blown and it would prove a turning point for both teams. The Cowboys only won four more matches in 2006 while the Storm dropped just three games – one of those being the grand final.
4. Round 15, 2017: Storm 23-Cowboys 22
State of Origin might have robbed the contest of a stack of talented players but generation next stole the show as the Storm and Cowboys put on a thriller at AAMI Park this season. The Cowboys shot out to an early 10-0 lead and were ahead by eight points with half-an-hour ago until former North Queensland NYC star Brandon Smith turned the game on its head with a burrowing try out of dummy-half. Curtis Scott went over two minutes later to give the hosts the lead and the match looked over when Felise Kaufusi crashed over to cap a stunning Storm burst. Down by eight and needing a miracle, Kane Linnett went over to give the Cowboys some hope with two minutes remaining before a Nelson Asofa-Solomona brain snap allowed Kyle Feldt to level the scores after the full-time siren. Touted as the next big thing, Storm halfback Brodie Croft showed there is life after Cooper Cronk as he coolly slotted a 30-metre field goal in golden point to seal the dramatic result.
3. Preliminary Final, 2015: Cowboys 32-Storm 12
The score mightn't have been close but this all-important clash still delivered a stack of talking points and memorable moments. Cooper Cronk dummied his way over to give the Storm the lead only for rival halfback Johnathan Thurston to swing momentum with a couple of assists to former Storm centre Justin O'Neill to put the Cowboys in front. With the game in the balance, Storm winger Matt Duffie came up with a horrible error as he attempted to volley a Cowboys cross-field kick out of the air, with his air swing allowing Gavin Cooper to crash over to land what proved to be a telling blow right on the stroke of half-time. Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly put to bed as Michael Morgan raced in two tries; the second coming minutes after Melbourne winger Marika Koroibete had been sent to the sin bin for throwing a punch. There was still time for Thurston to deliver one final piece of trickery as he bamboozled the defence to set up Cooper for his second to seal his side's spot in the grand final.
2. Round 10, 2016: Storm 15-Cowboys 14
A blockbuster double-header at Suncorp Stadium kicked off with the defending premiers taking on the premiership favourites. A rare dropped bomb by Suliasi Vunivalu gifted the Cowboys the lead inside four minutes and a couple of Thurston goals saw their advantage grow to eight points midway through the opening half. It didn't take long for Melbourne to hit back with both of their back-rowers crossing in the space of four minutes to give them a slender lead at the interval. A Cameron Smith penalty goal pushed the lead out to six points only for Michael Morgan to slice through to level the scores with plenty of time left on the clock. All eyes were on Cronk and Thurston but in the end it was Smith who stepped up to slot just the second field goal of his career to hand his side a nail-biting win.
1. Round 4, 2015: Cowboys 18-Storm 17
There aren't too many season-defining matches in Round 4, but for the Cowboys, this was do-or-die. Having lost their opening three matches, the pressure was on Paul Green's men to pull off a monumental Monday night upset against the Storm. Things started poorly for the hosts with Melbourne getting on the board through Kurt Mann, but things looked to be improving when Antonio Winterstein stepped through to cut the gap to two points. North Queensland's joy was short-lived as Marika Koroibete tore them to the shreds with a 95-metre kick return for a try before Felise Kaufusi joined in on the fun to make it 16-4 at the break. Needing to be the first team to score, Winterstein obliged with his second try in the left corner, only for Cooper Cronk to seemingly break their hearts with a 72nd-minute field goal. Trailing by seven points with less than three minutes remaining, the Cowboys needed a miracle. Enter Johnathan Thurston. The hero in headgear nailed a conversion from his non-preferred side to narrow the gap after Matthew Wright had gone over, and the star halfback was far from finished as he snapped a one-pointer with 40 seconds remaining to send the game into golden point. When Thurston got the ball on basically the same blade of grass in the first period of extra-time, everyone knew what was about to unfold. The Steeden sailed over the black dot and the Cowboys were home. It was an amazing one-pointer win and sparked an 11-game winning streak that propelled the Cowboys to their maiden premiership.