Sydney Roosters were too good for bitter rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs as they progressed to the Grand Final. The Roosters’ defence didn’t cave once as they restricted the Rabbitohs to just two penalty goals in a 12-4 win last week.
Cooper Cronk suffered severe rotator cuff damage in the win over the Rabbitohs and has only been named in the reserves. He will be given every chance to prove his fitness in what would be his eighth Grand Final.
Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa both return to the side following suspensions. Mitchell slots back in at centre with Paul Momirovski dropping to the bench after his surprise inclusion last week whilst Napa replaces Lindsay Collins on the bench.
The Roosters head into the Grand Final with the best defence in the NRL in 2018. That superb defence was highlighted during last week’s Preliminary final win over the Rabbitohs as they conceded just four points without allowing a single try.
Sydney Roosters’ last Grand Final appearance came in 2013 when they overcame Manly 26-18. It was a welcome win for the Roosters having lost their previous three Grand Finals.
Head Coach: Craig Bellamy
Starting 13: Slater, Vunivalu, Chambers, Scott, Addo-Carr, Munster, Croft, J. Bromwich, C. Smith, Glasby, F. Kaufusi, Stimson, Finucane – Interchanges:
K. Bromwich, Welch, B. Smith, Asofa-Solomona – Reserves: Hoffman, Hughes, Kasiano, Blair
Melbourne produced a superb performance to qualify for the Grand Final at the expense of Cronulla last week. The Storm opened up an early lead and didn’t look back as they soaked up the Sharks’ pressure to claim a 22-6 victory.
The big news in the build-up surrounding the Melbourne side came in the form of retiring future-Immortal Billy Slater successfully challenging a shoulder charge rap from the Cronulla game. He was set to miss his final game of rugby league but won his hearing with the judiciary.
Melbourne are unchanged from last week’s side with Ryan Hoffman set to miss out on a farewell appearance for the Storm having only been named amongst the reserves.
The Storm head into this game with the second best defence in the NRL this season, conceding 15.3 points per game. They also have the fourth best attack, posting an average of 22.6 points per game.
Melbourne can claim back-to-back Premierships with a win in this game, a feat that has yet to be achieved in the NRL era. This is their third consecutive Grand Final and eighth since 2006.
Since 1999, Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have appeared in 14 Grand Finals between them but the two powerhouses have managed to avoid each other until now in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated NRL Grand Finals of all time.
These two have been renowned for their superb defence during 2018 with the Roosters conceding the fewest points on average, closely followed by the Storm. That should set the tone for a tight, low-scoring contest in which two brutal and effective defences will be on show.
It’s been a big week in terms of team news for both teams with the Storm receiving a boost with Billy Slater cleared to play but all eyes now turn to Cooper Cronk as he faces a race against time to turn out against his former club. It’s likely to be a last-minute call which could play a big role in the outcome of the game.
Both of these teams are capable of winning and Melbourne’s recent history of making it to the grandest stage makes them favourites but that won’t deter the Roosters. They won the minor Premiership and can also edge this game to prevent Melbourne claiming back-to-back titles.