The Storm’s spine of Billy Slater, Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith is the best of any team. However, they are definitely closely matched by the Cowboys’ spine of Lachlan Coote, Te Maire Martin, Michael Morgan and Jake Granville. This is definitely saying something when you consider the great Johnathan Thurston is out of the picture for this match.
Here we examine the key match-ups will could impact on the Grand Final result
Josh Addo-Carr vs Kyle Feldt
This match-up can be perceived as a clash between two of the best try scorers from either side. Both Addo-Carr and Feldt have an incredible ability to find the try line, and conjure up tries from absolutely nothing, as Feldt has showed throughout his career.
Both players have a multitude of speed to burn and the match may well be decided by a score from either of these prolific wingers.
Will Chambers vs Justin O’Neill
Here, we see a battle between the centre pairing for the Queensland State of Origin team. Chambers has proven his ability to perform on the big stage with mammoth performances at club, state and international level.
O’Neill may have experienced a comparatively disappointing season on the try scoring front, however, he proved in 2012 with the Storm and in 2015 with the Cowboys that he can score tries in Grand Finals. His defence is also very strong and has been key in getting the Cowboys this far.
Dale Finucane vs Jason Taumalolo
Finucane has the thankless task of having to contain the incredible Kiwi hulk from the Cowboys, best known as Taumalolo.
Taumalolo has a Dally M medal to his name from last season due to his barnstorming performances, yet has somehow improved from that. It has been required that he do just that this season, given the year-long absence of co-captain Matt Scott. As such, he holds the key to the Cowboys’ metre-eating abilities.
As such, if Finucane is successfully able to curb the influence of his opposite number, he can go a long way to ensuring his side gain the ascendency.
Billy Slater vs Lachlan Coote
One of the game’s best ever players against one of the safest under the high ball.
Slater really needs no introduction, given he is renowned for performing on the biggest stage at club, state and national level. He is a proven try scorer and speedster as he has showed throughout his 14-year career.
One thing many supporters may not be aware of is that Slater was an avid Cowboys supporter prior to the beginning of his career. It was only after he heard nothing from the Cowboys upon writing to them that he decided to make the journey down south.
Coote may not have the same level of speed or attacking abilities as his opposite number, however he is very much able to create tries with his passing and kicking game. He is safe as houses under the high ball and his positional awareness is first rate. Like Slater, Coote also has a Premiership to his name.
Cameron Munster vs Te Maire Martin
Upon the return of Slater in his normal position, Munster then made the switch to five-eighth, a position he filled with aplomb. His performances in the halves earned him a place in game three of this year’s State of Origin, where he showed nerves of steel in Queensland’s 22-6 victory.
Martin had found himself surplus to requirements at the Panthers and was on his way to visit his family in New Zealand when Cowboys coach Paul Green intervened to convince him to make the journey to North Queensland. As they say, the rest is history, with Martin’s performances in a Cowboys jersey proving that he is capable of helping fill the void left by one Thurston.
Cameron Smith vs Jake Granville
This intriguing match-up can be perceived as a battle between the master and the apprentice, especially for the hooker position for Queensland.
Smith needs absolutely no introduction, given his status as one of the greatest players of all time and a future immortal. He is the captain of the Storm, Queensland and Australia. He is a proven point scorer, having surpassed the 2000-point mark this season.Smith is also an absolute workhorse and absolutely tireless in defence.
Granville may not have the same achievements as Smith, but his speed and creativity out of dummy half has seen a multitude of tries scored by his team while he backs it up with strong defence. Granville has proven to be the answer to the previous problems at hooker for the Cowboys, ever since his move there in early 2015. As such, he has been talked about as an heir to Smith for the hooker position at state level.
Cooper Cronk vs Michael Morgan
The match-up of all match-ups for this game. Here we see the departing Cronk against Thurston’s replacement Morgan. Cronk will undoubtedly be wishing he didn’t give the advice to his opposite number earlier in the year to take control of the game. Morgan has heeded Cronk’s advice and has never looked back.
With this being his final game in a Storm jersey, Cronk will be desperate to finish his Storm, and potentially NRL, career on a high note with a Premiership. Like Smith and Slater, Cronk has proven his ability to perform on the biggest stage, not just for the Storm, but also for Queensland and Australia. He was the Clive Churchill medallist in the Storm’s 14-4 victory in the 2012 Grand Final. His ability to create and score a multitude of tries has been influential in the Storm being consistently strong in attack. He is also incredibly strong in defence, much like his Storm teammates.
In the absence of JT, many expected the Cowboys to struggle badly. However, thanks to advice from his opposite number, Morgan had other ideas. Time and time again, he took the game by the scruff of the neck, by either setting up tries, creating opportunities or scoring them himself, as well as helping save tries. This all occurred after a slow start to the season. The scary part is that he improved on all this during the finals, as he helped drive his team into the Grand Final. Morgan has added further dimensions to his game and what better chance to showcase all this than to lead his underdog team to glory?
Who do you think will win each key matchup? Let us know in the comments below.
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