NRL: Sharks Chase Maiden Premiership Title

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Paul Gallen (L) and Cameron Smith during the 2016 NRL Finals series launch at Allianz Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.

It is the National Rugby League Telstra Premiership Grand Final this weekend. A huge event that is the culmination of a 26 round competition and the thrilling last weeks of knockout football.

The match is scheduled for Sunday, October 2. It should be another epic final, as Cronulla chase a fairy tale ending. The Melbourne Storm are favorites on paper, with the Sharks relying on the sentiments of the people to overcome the odds.

The Storm are playing their seventh grand final in 18 years, while the Sharks chase their maiden Premiership title. Celebrating the 50th year of the NRL club, it will be their third grand final appearance. Fans will be hoping for a better outcome–and like they say ‘third chance is a lucky charm’.

Sharks Chase Maiden Premiership Title

The Cronulla Sutherland-based side is laced with New South Wales Blues players. They are led by Blues skipper Paul Gallen, playmaker James Maloney (pictured), Wade Graham and the enforcer Andrew Fifita. Also in the team is high-flyer Jack Bird and enigmatic Michael Ennis, who will both be vital come Sunday.

Sharks pack
James Maloney of the Sharks talks to his side during the Sea Eagles v Cronulla match Brookvale Oval (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Melbourne-based franchise are chasing their third premiership title. The Craig Bellamy coached side are laced with Queensland Maroons heroes. Leading the charge is Maroons skipper Cameron Smith, playmaker Cooper Cronk, center Will Chambers and fullback Cameron Munster.

After 80 minutes, the winning team will have the chance to hold up the Provan-Summons Trophy.

How Did They Get To The Final?

The Storms were Minor Premiership winners [finishing top seed]. They made their way to the final after defeating the resilient Canberra Raiders side on Saturday 14-12. It was a semifinal match worthy of a final, as the Raiders threw everything at their seasoned finals campaigners opponents.

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Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks face off in the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final on Sunday (NRL Digital Graphic).

The Minor premiers dug deep to hold out the Canberra-based franchise, led by Jason Crocker and BJ Leilua. It was the experience of the halves combination and the big Melbourne forwards that kept the Storms in the game. The Raiders have a good side, and come next season they will be title contenders.

The Sharks however, had a relative ‘walk in the park’. They raced out to a 20-0 lead before the reigning champion North Queensland Cowboys scored any points. Crucially, the Sharks worked on the left-hand side of the pitch, which was the main factor in their win. James Maloney and Wade Graham exploited that Cowboys weakness. The Cowboys faltered badly, as the Sharks overcame them 36-20.

A week earlier, their sudden death playoff against the Broncos took the heat out of the Cowboys threat, as they failed to find their rhythm. They were left wanting in all aspects of the game. Even their late comeback in the last 15 minutes, was too little too late.

Storm vs Sharks – Five things to know

  • Storm – Their Fijian wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Marika Koroibete are playing the season of their career. Vunivalu is the highest try scorer this season
  • Sharks – Be very weary of the Maloney/Graham combo
  • Storm – The Cronk/Smith combination is their main attacking threat. That needs to be cut down before it starts to dictate the game
  • Sharks – Anfrew Fifita and Paul Gallen can turn from heroes to villains in matter of seconds. If they don’t control their temper, then say goodbye to the premiership title.
  • Not only are the Sharks are chasing a fairy tale ending, State honors are at stake too, with the classic Victoria v New South Wales battle still raging.

NRL Statistics: team head-to-head

Grand Final Team Lists:

MELBOURNE STORM

  1. Cameron Munster
  2. Suliasi Vunivalu
  3. Will Chambers
  4. Cheyse Blair
  5. Marika Koroibete
  6. Blake Green
  7. Cooper Cronk
  8. Jesse Bromwich
  9. Cameron Smith
  10. Jordan McLean
  11. Kevin Proctor
  12. Tohu Harris
  13. Dale Finucane
  14. Kenneth Bromwich
  15. Tim Glasby
  16. Christian Welch
  17. Ben Hampton
  18. Young Tonumaipea
  19. Slade Griffin

CRONULLA SHARKS

  1. Ben Barba
  2. Sosaia Feki
  3. Jack Bird
  4. Ricky Leutele
  5. Valentine Holmes
  6. James Maloney
  7. Chad Townsend
  8. Andrew Fifita
  9. Michael Ennis
  10. Matt Prior
  11. Luke Lewis
  12. Wade Graham
  13. Paul Gallen (C)
  14. Gerard Beale
  15. Chris Heighington
  16. Sam Tagatese
  17. Jayson Bukuya
  18. Kurt Capewell
  19. Joseph Paulo

Matt Cecchin and Ben Cummins will referee the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

“Main photo credit”

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