All the huffing and puffing, and crunching and crashing comes down to this - it's the big finale for rugby league south of the equator, the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final. First with his preview is this years's regular finals correspondent, Shaun Beirne, @shaunbeirne.
And as a special bonus, I hope to have another preview focusing on the exotic markets available later in the week.
NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final
Melbourne v Cronulla
Sunday, October 2, 1915 AEST, 1015 BST
Grand Finals since 2000
Points of interest:
• The average margin is 13.75 against a median of 9 so generally they are close matches but once a team gets on a roll they can blow out as the 13+ results at 37.5% show.
• The average total match points are 34.9 against a median of 37 so when matches go low they can go very low with 5 of the last 16 having less than 30 points.
Melbourne will line up with the same 17 that started last week.
Cronulla get a massive in with Sam Tagataese being named in the 17 this week and declaring himself 100% fit. Kurt Capewell looks like being the unlucky player to miss out.
Head to head this season they have met twice with a win each. Cronulla won 14-6 at home in round 4 and of course Melbourne won 26-6 in Round 26 to secure the Minor premiership. That last meeting was much closer than it looked with Cronulla making a higher number and better quality of chances despite losing.
Melbourne have had the benefit of four matches at home and have been perfectly suited by their two finals matches being played in wet conditions. This sets it up perfectly for a couple of arm wrestles which they love. Arguably they were lucky last week with a few key decisions going their way but in reality they were probably always just that little bit strong. They have certainly set their stall out to defend their way to a title having conceded just 2.1 tries per match this season.
As I noted last week their recent losses to Brisbane and Canberra both came on the back of their opposition moving the Storm around and again when Canberra were able to last week they did look under some discomfort only for their scrambling defence to bail them out.
Cronulla, as I expected, were far too good for North Queensland, the late flurry of tries to they conceded (71st, 77th, 79th minutes) made the final score 32-20 but they were never in any sort of doubt.
Melbourne don’t carry the fatigue factor that North Queensland did and so a much tougher game can be expected.
Plenty of people will suggest you have to lose one to win one. I don’t stand by this statement and certainly the Sharks have experience all over the pitch so I have no concerns about the mentality of a team seeking their first-ever premiership.
The weather forecast (20° and 50% humidity) could not be better for an open fast match however there are plenty of niggly players amongst both teams so hopefully the refs can keep control and keep them apart.
Leave the Porch light on Harold Holt is coming home!
Not nearly as confident as last week as everything suggests there is not much between these teams however I think Cronulla might just edge the match on the back of their more expansive attacking options. Back Cronulla at around the $2 mark.
The total match points line sits at 34.5 with the under at 1.80 at the TAB, there is some 34 around and you might even see some 33.5 later in the week. The stats are not heavily in my favour but at those marks with the conditions expected to be so good I will have a small play on the over as well.