THE Melbourne Storm might be the $1.80 favourites heading into Sunday night’s NRL decider at ANZ Stadium, but a pair of rugby league pundits believe the Victorians are fortunate to be there.
NRL hall of famer Andrew Johns said a similar performance from the Storm on Sunday would see the Sharks securing their first-ever premiership in their 50 year existence.
“For me the best team lost (Saturday’s preliminary final),” Johns said after Melbourne’s narrow victory over Canberra.
“They didn’t have much luck, the Raiders. The Storm were OK, but if they are going to trouble the Sharks next Sunday, they have to improve and improve a lot.
“They had conditions to suit, wet and slippery. But the conditions for next Sunday are going to be dry, which will suit Sharks.”
Fellow NRL Hall of Fame member Darren Lockyer agreed, saying the Storm need to lift their output significantly if they are to hoist the Provan-Summons Trophy for a second time in four years.
“Defensively the (the Storm) were strong, but I thought they had a bit of luck.” Lockyer said.
“They got a lot of penalties and they ended up only beating the Raiders by two points at home.
“The Raiders had a few injuries and had a few chances they dropped.”
The Sharks were far more comprehensive in their 32-20 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night.
Cronulla head into Sunday as the $2 outsiders for the grand final, but Johns and Lockyer believe the Sharks are the team to beat on Sunday.
2016 NRL grand final odds
Cronulla Sharks – $2
Smith happy that Gallan gets his shot
They may be bitter enemies on Sunday, but Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith was still able to see the romance in Shark stalwart Paul Gallan finally getting a grand final appearance.
Cameron Smith ($6) and Paul Gallan ($13) will be key figures in Sunday night’s grand final and are first and fifth in Clive Churchill medal betting at Sportsbet.com.au.
The two men have been long-time combatants on the field after captaining their opposing states over the course of the decade, but it will be the first time the pair have met on the NRL’s biggest club stage.
The Storm captain said he is pleased Gallan finally gets his shot at the NRL premiership and he looks forward to renewing hostilities on Sunday night.
“I always enjoy playing against Gal. I see him a bit because we play in the middle,” Smith said.
“I’m pleased for Gal. He has waited a long time for this. He works hard every time he pulls on the jersey. He has given a lot to the Cronulla club over many years.”
Gallan and Smith have long been considered bitter rivals, but after the NSW captain turned his back on the State of Origin winning Queensland as they accepted the shield the rivalry hit fever pitch.
The Storm captain said that while the idea that the duo hate each other adds another fascinating aspect to an already enthralling grand final, the pair have buried the hatchet.
“I’ve spoken to Gal about that. We’ve discussed it and moved on,” the Melbourne Storm captain said.
“At the time it was an issue for a few of us. He explained to me what happened. I’m happy with that explanation. There is not going to be anything from State of Origin lingering around. He contacted me to clear it up because there was a fair bit of talk in the days after that Origin.
“He explained to me what happened and I was happy with his explanation. We’ve moved on. We’ve played each other since then. It’s all good. We’ve all explained what we thought on the night. It was disappointing for us. We’ve moved on. It’s been a long time now. I’m not concerned with it.”
Clive Churchill medal betting
Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Cooper Cronk $6
James Maloney $9
Jesse Bromwich $11
Paul Gallen $13
Ben Barba $13
Andrew Fifita $13
Michael Ennis $15
Cameron Munster $15
Wade Graham $17
Luke Lewis $21
Tohu Harris $23
Kevin Proctor $23
Chad Townsend $23
Blake Green $26
Jack Bird $26
Will Chambers $34
Jordan McLean $41
Suliasi Vunivalu $51
Valentine Holmes $51
Matt Prior $51
Dale Finucane $51
Cheyse Blair $67
Ricky Leutele $81
Marika Koroibete $81
Kurt Capewell $101
Sosaia Feki $101
Kenny Bromwich $101
Chris Heighington $101
Tim Glasby $101
Gerard Beale $101
Christian Welch $101
Jayson Bukuya $101
Ben Hampton $101
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