Jesse Bromwich of the Storm on the charge in the NRL preliminary final against the Raiders at AAMI Park.
Jesse Bromwich of the Storm on the charge in the NRL preliminary final against the Raiders at AAMI Park. JULIAN SMITH

Durko's Dissections for the grand final



2016 NRL grand final

ANZ Stadium, 7.15pm (6.15pm AEST)

History: Played 31, Storm 21, Sharks 10

At ANZ Stadium: First meeting

Last met: Storm 26-6, at AAMI Park, round 26, 2016

IF STATISTICS were to be the lone yardstick, this year's premiership decider is no contest. While the Storm may have finished just three points ahead of the Sharks in the race for the 2016 minor premiership, they were the better defensive side by an average four points a game and all good judges rate defence the factor in big matches.

The Storm has also been victorious in 21 of its 31 previous meetings, has won four grand finals to the Sharks' none and comes into the match victorious in its most recent encounter - just four weeks ago - by a comfortable 20 points.

But stats and paper talk count for zilch in premiership deciders and little doubt exists that during the final series the Sharks have rediscovered the form that took them to 15 successive wins during the season.

And if they defend with the aggression they displayed against the Cowboys last weekend and show the same variation with the ball, they can definitely upset the composed, tradesman-like Melbourne, which relies so heavily on capitalising on the mistakes of its opposition. Obviously 300-gamers Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are the keys for the Storm, with veterans Paul Gallen and Michael Ennis playing an identically important role for the Sharks.

But in what should be a nail-biter the back three of both teams could be the difference, so don't be surprised to see an early aerial attack from the boot of Cronk for his flying Fijian wingers. While few expect the grand final to reach the heights of last year's thriller, if referees Matt Cecchin and Ben Cummins keep the sides apart this could also go down to the wire.

Under pressure: Paul Gallen. The Sharks skipper needs this premiership, and the glory that accompanies it, to help redeem his past indiscretions. Win this for Cronulla and all will be forgiven - almost.

Sure thing: Michael Ennis will shove, bait or sledge someone. But he will also play a blinder.

Big improver: Will Chambers. Since missing a chunk of the season with injury his return has been sluggish. As arguably the best centre in the game he may be the match winner.

One to watch: Andrew Fifita. A loathsome personality, but if he stays focused and disciplined, his charges and ball playing could be pivotal.

Clive Churchill Medal winner: Jesse Bromwich, the best prop in the game.

Tip: Storm.

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