2018 NRL Grand Final Preview: Roosters vs Storm

Who will emerge victorious in the decider on Sunday night?

NRL Tips analyst Steve Green weighs in on what looms as one of the great NRL Grand Final battles.

The Roosters and Storm have ground their way to this point.

They have defended their try line using great line speed, as well as some tactical / strategic penalties to stop their opponents getting momentum. The sin bin approach from earlier in the season has disappeared and players are now getting away with murder around the ruck.

In saying that, I do think there is a strong chance that NRL HQ sends a message to Klein and Sutton (who have been given the whistles for this game) to open things up and allow the attack to flow.

If that is the case, then this could turn out to be a cracker of a game! The weather for Sunday looks to be decent and so on a dry track, perhaps we will get to see some points scored in this one!

Suspension & Injury

I cannot remember a Grand Final where both teams had a stay player under such a big cloud.

Slater being cleared on Tuesday night is a massive boost for the Storm! Missing Slater would have hurt not only because of his brilliance as a player, but what his presence at the back does for the Storm.

He is a vocal fullback that guides the defence ahead of him and as he showed against the Sharks, he is still capable of scoring tries in the biggest arena! His inclusion is massive and it is understandable that the money has come rushing for the Storm since the verdict was handed down last night.

As for Cronk, I don’t think the champion number 7 plays on Sunday. A busted shoulder is just too important an injury to carry into a game like this and the Storm will not make the same mistake South did and will run plenty of traffic at him.

From the opening kick Cronk would be bashed and his kicking game will be harmed because he will be far more weary of the kick pressure. Cronk’s absence is already partially priced in by the bookies, but as the realisation that he won’t play takes hold, even more money will come for the Storm and the Roosters should blow out to $2.30.

Key Players

Melbourne Storm

Obviously, Smith, Munster and Slater are the three big guns for the Storm, but after these superstars, the players that will really need to be at their best for the Storm are these guys

Brodie Croft – The plucky number 7 had a mountain of expectation on him earlier in the season and it seemed to get the better of him. But after dropping him for an extended period, Bellamy gave him another shot later in the season, and he has taken it with both hands.

Croft has been one of their unsung heroes over the past few months. With a lot of the defensive focus on Munster, I expect Croft to take the line on and keep up his excellent support play.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona – This man mountain has had a few injuries of late, but 2018 has been his best season to date. He didn’t get much game time against the Sharks due to his long spell on the sidelines, but if the Storm are going to win this one, then they need their underrated forward pack to step up.

Jesse Bromwich isn’t the player he once was and Glasby is under an injury cloud, so I expect Nelson to play a much bigger role in this match.

Will Chambers – The QLD centre has come out this week and declared himself ready to stop Latrell… after the young buck has got the upper hand on him on multiple occasions of late.

Mitchell is a force of nature close to the line and although I am sure Chambers will do a good job, if he does fail to contain Mitchell, then the Roosters will have a lot of success going down that side.

Sydney Roosters

Once again, you don’t need me to tell you how important Tedesco, Keary and Cordner are to the Roosters. However, whether the Roosters can lift the trophy at the end of the day will also come down to the performances of these guys:

Jake Friend – The hardworking number 9 is the kind of player every team needs in defence. However, when he plays under such fatigue, he can be pretty poor in attack.

He often has brain explosions and puts in poor kicks, and his dummy half control has nothing on Cam Smith. While he will be asked to make a ton of tackles, I expect to see Coach Robinson put Aubusson or Radley in there at times to give the Roosters some spark around the ruck.

Ryan Matterson – This guy is one of the most underrated players in the NRL and as explained earlier, he is who I think will partner Keary in the halves.

He is a great defender and strong runner of the ball, while he also has the skills to hit his target out wide. If the Roosters are to upset the Storm, this guy needs to get heavily involved and if he does, he has the potential to match Munster.

Blake Ferguson – The much-maligned winger has had a sensational season, with his kick returns and running game the best of any winger in the game. He is also a slick finisher and solid defender.

He does however, have the capacity in him to make an absolute howler and the Storm will try to target the ball when they tackle him (as he carried it too loosely). Although some people overlook the importance of wingers, I think we have 4 of the best wingers in the game lining up this weekend.

Verdict

Although I know Cronk will be a big absence if he indeed doesn’t play, I think the market may be overreacting to his injury. While his kicking game has been critical, he hasn’t been the attacking linchpin that many people expected him to be.

Keary currently sits in 3rd for the entire NRL for try assists with 20 and Tedesco is equal 4th with 19… while Cronk is equal 14th with 15 try assists (the same amount that Mitchell Pearce racked up in 2018, despite the fact that Pearce has played 10 less games than Cronk to get to that number).

In the line break assists category, Cronk is even further off the pace. He has only managed 10-line break assists in 2018 (equal 30th in the NRL). This puts him behind Michael Morgan, who despite having an injury plagued season, managed to rack up 11-line break assists in his 11 games.

So while the media gush over Cronk and although his composure and kicking game will be missed, I think what we are seeing here is a classic example of group-think… with a Cronk-less Roosters right in this Grand Final!

Predicted Score:

Roosters 20
Storm 18

Suggested Bet: Sydney Roosters +2.5 at Neds

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