Greg Inglis scores for Melbourne in the 2009 grand final.

The 2009 grand final seemingly boiled down to Jarryd Hayne versus the Storm's battery of champions, with the 21-year-old Eels fullback producing half a season of the most transcendent form in NRL history to lead the Eels from near the foot of the ladder all the way to the decider.

Hayne's incredible run earned him that year's Dally M Medal and helped the Eels to seven straight wins to claw an eighth-place finish before stunning the Dragons, Titans and Bulldogs on the way to the grand final.

"Haynesy and that were playing out of their skin," Storm forward Ryan Hoffman told NRL.com, admitting the club put a huge focus in grand final week to shutting down the opposition fullback.

"It was funny going into a grand final with one team finishing fourth and one team finishing eighth. Like everyone else we were sort of amazed, everyone was waiting for the bubble to burst and it just never did."

It was all the Storm in the first half, with an early try to Hoffman, followed by another in the 24th minute to Adam Blair courtesy of a Cooper Cronk line break.

Trailing 10-6 at the break, the Eels had to score first if they wanted to stay in it and Eric Grothe jnr did just that.

They couldn't stay with the Storm, with Greg Inglis and Billy Slater scoring shortly after, blowing the score out to 22-6 with 20 minutes to play.

Parramatta didn't lay down, and two quick tries to Joel Reddy and Fuifui Moimoi brought the score to a nerve-wracking 22-16, but a late penalty followed by a Greg Inglis field goal ensured Melbourne prevailed with a 23-16 win.

The title was later stripped from the Storm for salary cap breaches and the history books now declare no premiership winner for 2009, much to the chagrin of Eels fans.

Best player

Billy Slater won the Clive Churchill Medal on the back of an excellent performance at the back, which included a try assist.

Much of the focus leading into the game was on the battle of the No.1s, with Jarryd Hayne in career-best form for the Eels.

2009 Clive Churchill Medal winner Billy Slater.
2009 Clive Churchill Medal winner Billy Slater. ©NRL Photos

The unsung hero

Although Slater was named man of the match, the man himself later said that he believed Cooper Cronk deserved the award.

Cronk contributed two try assists and 16 kicks for 529 metres, and many critics echoed Slater's sentiments.

Play of the day

The Eels were well in the contest in the final minutes with a six-point buffer between the sides before Greg Inglis slotted the crucial field goal that effectively killed off any chance of a comeback win.

What-if moment

The set after Moimoi's try, Billy Slater spilled the Eels last-play bomb to hand them a full set at the Storm line. That set ended with Todd Lowrie poking a grubber straight at Ryan Hoffman. The exhausted second-rower somehow plucked the ball cleanly on the half volley to defuse the chance but who knows if the Storm could have survived yet another set on their line.

"That set of six near our line, Todd Lowrie put a kick in, he put a grubber in and somehow I was back going for it," Hoffman recalled.

"It was bobbling along the ground and somehow I caught it. I remember taking the tackle and thinking 'Jesus how did you catch that, if you drop that they're getting another set on our line'. I'm glad at the time I didn't have time to think about it because I would have dropped it but I remember thinking in the aftermath I could have cost the team the grand final."

 

Greg Inglis kicks a crucial field goal for the Storm.
Greg Inglis kicks a crucial field goal for the Storm. ©NRL Photos

The quote

Speaking about how a Storm side that had appeared in four straight grand finals for two victories would go down in history, Cameron Smith told the Herald Sun: "Definitely this side should be considered one of the great teams".

A line-up featuring Smith, Cronk, Slater, Brett Finch, Greg Inglis and Ryan Hoffman may have been a great team, but the unfortunate history surrounding the Storm in that era will always cast a negative light on the side.

Recollections of a grand final winner

Ryan Hoffman (Storm)

"The previous year we put a lot of focus on winning the minor premiership and come the grand final we were shot because we put so much effort into winning the minor premiership. We got it but it was to the detriment of the rest of the finals series because we got to the grand final with no gas and got belted by Manly.

"In 2009 we would have loved to win the minor premiership but we wanted top four, finished fourth, got the week off then after the prelim against the Broncos we felt in pretty good nick. We got together and watched the Bulldogs v Parramatta prelim and thought the Bulldogs were going to win that one but seeing the way Parramatta played, the confidence and flair they were playing with, we realised we were coming up against a team with nothing to lose.

"Our whole week of training was about shutting down Jarryd Hayne. I thought we handled Jarryd quite well. Our kicking game had a lot to do with that as well, Cooper and Finchy were nullifying what Haynesy could do. We had a lot of urgency about our defence which carried on to their offloads because they relied a lot on offloads and we were confident if we minimised their effectiveness that they couldn't go with us with their plan B.

"We were getting nervous (in the second half). We had a lead at half-time, they scored right after half-time but then we scored again so we were feeling pretty good. They got on a run, we had a couple of errors, we had some poor defence and they capitalised. They scored a try, came back upfield and Fui scored another one. After that try they got inside our half, Bill unfortunately dropped the bomb and they had another set of six on our line and I've honestly never heard a crowd that loud before. They were very staunch Parramatta. When we were going for the scrum knowing we had to defend a set on our line with about eight minutes to go, it was loud.

"We were up by six points, it was a real moment in the game, we thought 'we'll have to defend our backsides off because this is where Parramatta go on, they just need a sniff'. But we were confident, we managed to hold them out that set, got a penalty and GI kicked a field goal.

On his try

"I remember Finchy put me over for the first try that day. We were having breakfast that morning, Finchy was reading the newspaper and Joel Reddy was talking about how he was excited to come up against GI, he really wanted to shut down GI and defend well on GI. Finchy said 'Mate, you read this? I think he might be pretty focused on GI, how about we put in a play where I look like I'm throwing a long ball to GI then just play short to you' and I said 'no worries'.

"First five minutes we did that, Finchy hit me short, the rest was history. But it's funny that it just happens over breakfast, Finchy reading the paper and noticing something, it showed the benefit of having someone like Finchy in the team who looks at things that way." 

Recollections of a runner-up

Daniel Mortimer (Eels)

"It was a whirlwind, it was surreal. It feels like a movie I watched. I don't think we've seen a team do that since, to be so far out of the eight then to go on to the grand final, it was an absolute buzz, something I'm so thankful I was a part of it.

Eels star Jarryd Hayne in the 2009 grand final.
Eels star Jarryd Hayne in the 2009 grand final. ©NRL Photos

"It was a huge game. The Storm came from fourth, they had a really good finals series. For us that year, we weren't scoring off normal structured plays, it was all offloads and off the cuff. The Storm under Bellamy were really good at shutting that down, they shut down Haynesy pretty well which was a big thing.

"We came back into it, we were six points down with five minutes to go, we were right back into it. Greg Inglis put a field goal over and that was it. It was still enjoyable. A few of the older boys were in tears but I was smiling ear to ear because of the experience.

"I guess I was a bit naïve, I'd just turned 20 and I thought 'this is sweet, this is how easy it is, how good is this' but it doesn't take too long to appreciate just how rare grand finals are. It's something I'll always remember."

The year after

It was a year to forget for both clubs in 2010. Despite being early favourites to win the premiership, the Eels would return to inconsistent form and finish 14th. The Melbourne Storm were unable to earn points that year, and so finished last on the ladder.