After a long a grueling season, we are now left with two teams that are within reach of winning the 2016 Premiership. It has been a difficult road for both to make it to this point, but come KO on Sunday afternoon, each side will be pressing hard to win the ultimate title. The Sharks season appeared to be heading for an early finish heading into the Final campaign, as at one stage they had won just 1 out of their past 6 matches. Two consecutive victories have turned the tables and now they’re full of confidence after knocking out the Cowboys in impressive fashion. While the weight of possession, amount of field position and missed tackles were in their favor, the way in which the Sharks built pressure was remarkable. Ultimately, the Cowboys had no answers for their opponents as they attacked through the middle and on the edges. It was a game where a number of their key players fired at once and showed just what they’re capable of. The 32-20 score line flattered the Cowboys, with 2 tries in the last 10 minutes closing the margin of victory. In truth, the Sharks had the result decided by the 66th minute and will relish the extra confidence heading into this game. The Storm had a far more difficult time of it, finding the Raiders with more heart than most were expecting. In the end, the 14-12 victory was very close and there was a sense that the sin-bin to Jack Wighton swayed the eventual result. The game plan of the Storm was simple, get ahead and strangle the Raiders with defensive pressure. It worked well and is a formula that has served them well throughout 2016; the same can be expected here as they aim to control the speed of play. The no-nonsense style of play will work to some degree, but the Sharks are bound to pressure their edges as much as possible; a common attack in matches they’ve lost this year. It is time to decide the Premiers for 2016 and while this match may not be exciting, the result appears to be heading for a close finish.
Storm = Unchanged.
Sharks = Sam Tagataese has been named in jersey 16, with Kurt Capewell relegated to 18th man.
Overall = Storm 21 Sharks 10
Last 5 Matches = Storm 4 Sharks 1
At ANZ Stadium = Storm 71% Sharks 32%
Form = Storm 3 wins – Sharks 2 wins
First Try Scoring Options
Note – that in 3 out of the past 5 Grand Finals, a winger has scored first, with the other two coming from a fullback and second rower. Of those 5 tries, 3 have been scored before 10 minutes of the match (2 in the 7th and the other in the 9th minute), with the other two coming in the 20th and 30th minutes of play.
Best Bet = Suliasi Vunivalu @ $8 (23 tries in 20 matches) – He is a threat in the air and on the ground; and Cronk will be targeting the NRL’s leading try scorer as much as possible.
Value = Cheyse Blair @ $17 – Blair has been a revelation for the Storm since signing there and he can be difficult to stop close to the line. He will not gather as much attention as others around him but he represents value at this price.
Best Bet = Valentine Holmes @ $10 (19 tries in 26 matches) – Holmes is the Sharks answer to Vunivalu, but his chances are increased if the Sharks attempt to attack on the edges. They know what they need to do, it is a matter of using this strength to their advantage.
Value = Luke Lewis @ $21 – As the game plan for the Sharks is likely to include pressuring their edges, you can expect Lewis to pop up from time to time.
Clive Churchill Medal
Note – in the past 5 Grand Finals, a halfback has won the CCM 3 times, with a back rower winning in the other two.
Best Bet = Cameron Smith @ $5.50 – Smith leads from the front of the Storm and it is surprising to note that the CCM is one of the only accolades left for him to win. Cronk is a threat to Smith’s chances, but the way the Storm will want to nullify the Sharks forwards, means that Smith will have a major say in the eventual result.
Value = Jesse Bromwich @ $13 – Bromwich has been an underrated contributor to the Storm and goes about his job in a tough manner. You can expect more of the same from him here, as he asserts his authority on the Sharks pack in a bid to grab victory.
Best Bet = James Maloney @ $7 – The way Maloney will direct traffic to the edges of the Storm is important and he will have some form of involvement in their attacking plays. Expect plenty of defence to come his way too, as the Storm attempt to drain his energy and if the Sharks win, he will have to aim up here too.
Value = Luke Lewis @ $21 – Lewis was fantastic in the last few matches and will again be a leader of this pack. He is dangerous in attack running at holes and hits hard enough in defence to be able to make a statement.
Both teams play remarkably different games and the result will hinge on which team is capable of using theirs to combat the strength of their opponents. In saying that, the Sharks have shown this season how they can alter their approach to suit the style of opponents, more so than the Storm. This isn’t to suggest the Storm are incapable, but the Sharks have shown greater risk and at this stage of the season, the Storm will be looking to play a match similar to last week. The Storm rely on structure, they have an 82% completion rate and average just 21 missed tackles per game across the season; the best of any team in the league. This is far superior to the Sharks, who have a 74% completion rate and average 28 missed tackles; not too much difference but that structure could be the difference between winning and losing. It is important to note the previous meetings between these two sides in 2016; the most recent was in Round 26, where the Storm beat the Sharks comprehensively 26-6 with a superior defensive structure that nullified the Sharks in the middle. It was a different story in Round 4 though, the Sharks were victorious at home 14-6, as they managed to keep the Storm scoreless from the 20th minute onwards, as they dictated majority of the contest with their play. It was a rare win for the Sharks too, as they have won just 2 out of the past 9 meetings between these two sides. To make matters worse, they struggle at this ground, winning just 7 matches in 22 attempts. The Sharks are slight outsiders for this game but they are genuine contenders with their style of play. While they appear destined for a fairytale finish, they are producing quality football to put themselves in a winning position. Their edge attack is capable of disrupting the Storms defensive structure and pressure various defenders repeatedly. It is interesting to note that in the 2 Finals matches the Storm have played in 2016, they’ve scored no more than 16 points. As for the margin, it would be surprising to see the Sharks win by anything beyond 13 points given how the Storm structured the Storm are; although it must be noted that the average winning margin in the past 10 Grand Finals is 16.1 points, with a split of 5 each of a 1-12 or 13+ margin.
Sharks @ $2.05
Up,Up, Cronulla! = Sharks 1-12 @ $2.90 – As stated above, there is every chance that the margin could go beyond 13-points but it appears unlikely with the defensive record of these two sides, especially the Storm. Expect the Sharks to fall within this margin if they are to prevail as expected.