RUGBY LEAGUE analyst Kaine Greenwood (@KaineG23) highlights the value for Sunday morning's NRL Grand Final between Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters.
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm | Sunday 30th October 2018, 10.30 | Sky Sports
The best two sides on the NRL ladder have made it through to the winner-takes-all match and it is the first time they will face each other in the main event, which is more than enough reason to charge into this preview with a real sense of excitement.
The drama, however, started well ahead of the game with ex-Melbourne hero Cooper Cronk facing a race to be fit after an injury against the Rabbitohs last weekend; while Storm had their own issues in clearing full-back Billy Slater for the game after he was cited for a try-saving effort on Sosaia Feki.
Tight tussle anticipated
Both these sides have built their seasons on the kind of defence that Slater put to the judiciary in getting the ‘not guilty’ verdict which allows him to bring down the curtain on his career on the field in Sydney and that was illustrated in both preliminary finals – the Roosters kept South Sydney from crossing the whitewash at all and reigning premiers Storm gave up just one try.
The only match-up between these sides before the weekend was an affair that follows suit, it couldn’t have been any closer – a one-point victory (9-8) for the Purple Pride at the Adelaide Oval in Round 16. A penalty goal each meant it was 2-2 at half-time and the game wasn't decided until Cameron Smith nailed a field goal with less than two minutes to play.
There is no reason to believe that it will be wildly different this time around either, considering what is at stake and the average points-against for both sides. The numbers show Minor premiers Sydney have conceded 15 points-per-game across the season, just ahead of their opponents (15.1 ppg) – the top two figures of 2018.
Second-half to open up
As such I’m keen to get involved with a points-based selection that fits the pattern; the total points line of Under 32.5 Points has been cleared in 14 of the last 20 finals and I therefore can’t favour it but I sense the game will start off as a tense affair and open up more in the second 40 minutes.
Each side is 13/26 for 2018 when it comes to the second-half being the Highest Scoring Half which fits with 10/11 (Bet365) quotes, yet NRL Grand Finals dating back to 1998 have seen this win 14 times and that therefore appeals most.
To pick a winner outright here is tough and should former Storm stalwart Cronk make the game, the Tricolours chances will significantly increase. He has been included as part of the reserves list for Trent Robinson’s side and I suspect it’ll probably a game-time decision as to wether he plays.
The options as his replacement include Mitchell Aubusson, who is named at half, but is more likely to be one of Sean O’Sullivan or Victor Radley.
Storm to make history
I am prepared to enter the market on a Half-Time/Full-Time result though because three-quarters of Grand Final games (15/20) since inception have seen the team leading at the break lift the silverware.
With a feeling Melbourne will be the first back-to-back winners in the competition’s current guise, it is 17/10 (Betfred) that they do so in this fashion.
Wing wonder to dot down
A third of team tries for the favourites have come from the wing duo of Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu so it’s difficult to move away from the pair when looking at scoring options in their attack.
The latter of these two is far more appealing as market-leader Addo-Carr has not crossed in any of his last six games, whereas Vunivalu (5/4 William Hill) on the other edge has eight tries in as many games, with just three scoreless weeks since the club’s bye week in June (11 games).
On the opposing side of the things the returning Latrell Mitchell (7/4 Betfred) is worthy of note after scoring four times in his last 160 minutes with 16 tries in 23 games across the campaign.
Munster to be named MOTM
With so many big names on the park it is often difficult to pick a selection for Man of the Match in games like this but it is fun and with Slater playing his last 80 minutes of league there could be sentimental aspect to the award should Melbourne triumph.
It would be back-to-back wins for the #1 and make him the first three-time recipient since Norm Provan, which means his 16/5 favouritism is understandable.
Cameron Smith will play in yet another finals game taking him above Darren Lockyer on the all-time list in his 36th game, that kind of experience is invaluable makes 11/2 on him appealing.
Cameron Munster is viewed as the most attractive bet for this market, in my view though, as a half-back has won the Clive Churchill Medal in three of the last six matches.
The stand-in at full-back for the 2016 final has fully established himself as the future of the Storm in the middle of the field and has consistently produced over 2018 – 15 try assists; nine line breaks and 82 tackle busts.
A showing anywhere near this level will make him a serious contender at 9/1 (Sky Bet).
Should Sydney take the title (only four players on the losing side have ever taken the accolade) then the aforementioned Mitchell is the main candidate at a price of 20/1 (Sky Bet).
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – Melbourne Storm/Melbourne Storm (17/10 Betfred)
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – Second-half to be the Highest Scoring Half (10/11 Bet365)
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – Suliasi Vunivalu to score a try at anytime (5/4 William Hill)
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm – Cameron Munster to be Man of the Match (9/1 Sky Bet)