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Club of the decade title on the line in Storm v Roosters showdown

Last year it was the decider the decade had been waiting for.

This Saturday's latest Roosters-Storm square dance may just decide it.

In 2010 the Tricolours were starting the year fresh from their first wooden spoon since the '60s.

Melbourne meanwhile were whacked with an unwanted piece of cutlery and stripped of prized silverware for the biggest salary cap rort in rugby league history.

Starting from the basement, both clubs have since set up near-permanent residence in the penthouse – with two premierships, four minor premierships and seven preliminary final appearances each over the rest of the decade.

Saturday's final clash will deliver one of these powerhouses into yet another grand final, with last crack at a third premiership for the decade.

"I don't know how to answer that," says Cooper Cronk, a man with an insight into both champion clubs like no other, when asked who prevails as top team of the 2010s.

"I will say it's not a coincidence that both Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson are at the forefront of that.

Roosters v Storm - Preliminary Final

"[Respective captains] Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Cameron Smith are at forefront of that. When you have good people involved, good things tend to happen."

This rivalry is a different beast to most in rugby league. It is borne almost solely from success.

The great Broncos-Cowboys stoushes of recent years – little brother finally trumping its elder.

Manly-Melbourne before that came from the spite of Donnybrookvale and the fact each team traded drubbings in back-to-back grand finals.

Roosters-Rabbitohs, Parramatta-Canterbury, Fibros-Silvertails; all with their fair share of localised spite, player poaching and real or imagined sleights.

Melbourne and the Roosters have traded too. Soon-to-be Knights coach Adam O'Brien moved north from the Storm just this year.

Bellamy's offsider Jason Ryles went the opposite way after starting for the Tricolours in their 2010 grand final loss to the Dragons.

Talent scout Peter O'Sullivan helped secure some of the best in both sides, and tried to lure Friend, Mitchell Aubusson and Mitchell Pearce away from the Roosters while at Melbourne.

Cameron Munster was on the Roosters' radar this time last year. Will Chambers has been previously.

But aside from the 2018 grand final, an average winning margin of less than two points separates the sides over the last three seasons.

Should Friend start ahead of Verrills?

"I think this is probably my favourite [rivalry] because of the way that it's carried out," Luke Keary says, having been at the forefront of recent Rabbitohs-Roosters stoushes.

"There's no animosity or spite. It's just two very good footy teams who, we usually bring our best for each other.

"Contests we've had over the last 2-3 seasons I've been here, there's been a few one-pointers, a two-pointer, the grand final is the only other one.

"It's never really dirty or anything like that. It's just two really good footy teams that go at each other."

Marshalling the two sides are Bellamy and Robinson from the stands, Cronk and Smith on the paddock.

The latter pair have filled endless column inches and clickable headline fodder from their reported falling-out, which they have each denied repeatedly.

But unlike this week's other coaching combatants Ricky Stuart and Wayne Bennett, there is no sniping or potshots between Bellamy and Robinson.

Not in public at least. The coaching chess is all we see.

"I reckon they love trying to out-coach each other," Keary grins.

"I think it's just fascinating, the different styles, obviously you've got Cam over there, you've got Cooper, Robbo, Bellamy.

"There's a lot of stuff that you probably don't see, defensive structures, different plays that they'll come up with that they're trying to out-think each other and out-do each other."

Cronk the 'weird dude' a huge influence on Keary and Tedesco

Through their last six clashes – last year's grand final aside again – mere moments are all that have separated them.

Penalties from Smith in Adelaide this year, a field goal from the same boot 12 months earlier.

Latrell Mitchell and Pearce doing the same in the Roosters' triumphs.

For Cronk this is where the rivalry of the decade truly comes to the fore.

"Craig v Trent, I don't think that comes into play," he says.

"I think the momentous occasion comes into play more than the personal rivalry.

"The best part of this time of year for me is you do all the analysis and think 'we'll do this, this, that and that', but then on the other side of the field there's an opposition that's been doing exactly the same thing.

"In that moment in time, in that split second, can you take all that information and come up with the right play?

"That for me is what finals footy is about, and in particular, the big moments."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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