THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
NRL GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm
ANZ Stadium, 5:15pm (local).
BULLDOGS: Ben Barba, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Aiden Tolman, Mick Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Greg Eastwood. Interchange (from): James Graham, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Dene Halatau
STORM: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jessie Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Bryan Norrie, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Todd Lowire. Interchange (from): Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Jaiman Lowe, Richie Fa’aoso, Rory Kostjayson, Mahe Fonua, Siosaia Vave, Anthony Quinn
THE BIG ONE IS HERE and fans from NSW and Victoria wait with bated breath for kick off in the game that will decide the best team in the NRL for 2012.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler aims to become the first ever coach to win back to back grand finals with two different teams whereas Storm coach Craig Bellamy will attempt to gain his first premiership win as coach and erase the bad memories of the past when his side were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 grand final wins.
THE RUN IN:
Melbourne enter the grand final off the back of an impressive run of form through the finals which saw them brush aside the Rabbitohs in week 1 with an easy 24-6 win before disposing of the reigning premiers Manly by a whopping 40-12.
The Bulldogs have been impressive in their own right when they won a hard fought match against the Sea Eagles in week one earning them a week off which helped them prepare for, and defeat the Rabbitohs in week 3.
As a result we get to watch the two best teams of the year go at it in what is bound to be a textbook display of Rugby League.
WHERE ARE THE STORM MOST DANGEROUS?
The Storm will be dangerous thanks to the kicking game of Cooper Cronk and inside each set hooker Cameron Smith waits quietly with his foot on the accelerator, ready to pick out the right moments to up the tempo in attack. Smith is always hard to stop in these moments but if the Canterbury players fail to even let him know they are watching him, he will control play from the outset and be especially crafty inside the Bulldogs 20m zone.
WHERE ARE THE BULLDOGS MOST DANGEROUS?
The Bulldogs major weapon will come from the likes of free spirits Ben Barba and Josh Reynolds. Barba is an expert at hovering around the ruck looking for second phase opportunities and Josh Reynolds has endless supplies of enthusiasm that see him manifest attacking raids from anywhere on the field. Beware their short passing shifts to either side of the field.
The Bulldog’s forward pack holds the slightest of edges over the Storm’s pack and in the Bulldogs last 3 grand final wins (’88, 95,04) the man of the match has been a Bulldogs forward.
IF IT RAINS?
There has been a bit of talk surrounding possible showers that have been forecast for the big day. If the rain does fall however, I’m not expecting much of a difference to the outcome of the game other than a few less points scored overall. A wet game probably means 6 less points for both sides.
The Doggies effectively have a home ground advantage not to mention a home state advantage and have racked up 10 wins from their last 10 starts at ANZ Stadium. They have been the most consistent team all year and have only lost 1 game in the last 16 which include games against quality sides. However, the Storm have so much more finals experience under their belt especially in the 1,7 and 9 positions who have amassed 11 games in grand finals. For the Bulldogs’ 1, 7 and 9 it’s their first grand final each.
I’m putting this one down to past finals experience and the Storm have it in spades.
Last 8 Head to Head:
Bulldogs, Storm, Storm, Storm, Bulldogs, Storm, Bulldogs, Storm
Chance of winning: Bulldogs 40%, Storm 59%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Suggested Bets:
Storm Head to Head @ $1.81 (Centrebet)
Clive Churchill Medallist – Cameron Smith @ $8 (Betfair)
(And you can multi the two bets on Betfair and get odds of around $14)
Thanks to all that have followed this column throughout the year!
I hope you had much success and I look forward to writing for you all in 2013 🙂