The NRL judiciary's decision to clear Billy Slater of a shoulder charge has the Melbourne Storm a firm favourite for Sunday's grand final. Picture: Stefan Postles/AAP
The NRL judiciary's decision to clear Billy Slater of a shoulder charge has the Melbourne Storm a firm favourite for Sunday's grand final. Picture: Stefan Postles/AAP

Durkin: Smith to lead Storm to premiership glory

Veteran rugby league scribe Tony Durkin has assessed the chances of the Roosters and the Storm in Sunday's NRL grand final

 

 

 

ROOSTERS V STORM

ANZ Stadium, Sunday 7.20pm

Played: 35, Storm 20, Roosters 15. 

At ANZ Stadium: First meeting. 

Biggest wins: Roosters beat Storm 41-6 at the SFS in 2000; Storm beat Roosters 46-nil at Allianz Stadium in 2016. 

Last met: Storm 9-8, at Adelaide Oval, round 16, 2018. 

Ladbrokes odds: Roosters $2.25, Storm $1.68

The disparity between these teams in 2018 has been such that the unexpected availability of Billy Slater, combined with the almost-certain loss of Cooper Cronk, has swung the pendulum hugely in favour of the Storm.

Although the Roosters were minor premiers, that honour was merely on the basis of a skinny eight-point differential after both teams topped the ladder on 32 points.

And the only time they met this season, it was a 9-8 cliffhanger win to the Storm in Adelaide. Defensively, and in attack, there is a struck match between them on paper.

And apart from Cronk, both teams are at full strength and both have big, mobile forwards, slick outside backs and stunningly brilliant fullbacks.

While the rock-like defence of the Roosters is the stand-out memory from last weekend, the manner in which the Storm had total control in their win over the Sharks is another prominent recall.

No Cronk does not necessarily give the Roosters no hope, but the journey to premiership honours will be much tougher without the crafty No.7.

Cooper Cronk can expect the Storm to target his dicky shoulder. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Cooper Cronk can expect the Storm to target his dicky shoulder. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Under pressure: Cooper Cronk - if he does make it. Despite the fact he played 323 NRL matches for the Storm, won two premierships and multiple other individual awards, he will be nobody's mate for 80 minutes on Sunday. His dicky shoulder will be Melbourne's chief target.

Sure thing: Cameron Smith to run the show - he always does, regardless of the importance of the match.

Most dangerous: James Tedesco. While the Roosters are miserly in defence, they still need to score points and Tedesco has proved a magical $1million buy. His stepping and turn of speed are electric, and he has improved his passing game immensely since joining the Roosters.

Big improver: Luke Keary - and he will need to be. Irrespective of the involvement of Cronk, the livewire five-eighth must play a more tactical role than usual, especially with his kicking game.

Clash to watch: Centres Will Chambers and Latrell Mitchell. They were at each other during Origin and, despite serving recent suspensions, will be no shrinking violets in the grand final. This clash will be a ripper.

Clive Churchill Medal winner: Cameron Smith. The Storm skipper has won 23 major player awards in 17 seasons at the top, but never the Clive Churchill Medal. Surely this must be his year.

TIP: Storm

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