Football grand final results can be very unjust, even harsh, but that cannot be said of last night’s NRL victory by the Melbourne Storm. The standout team of the 2007 season are the NRL premiers, and their all round class was amplified by last night’s 34-10 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles.
AFL fans will see the similarities with the grand final outcome on Saturday as well, but there is one difference – at least the Sea Eagles were still in the contest at half time! BUt the similarities were clear into the second half. The Storm scored 24 points to the Sea Eagles 4, and would have scored at least half a dozen more had Cameron Smith been his usual reliable self when kicking for goal.
But if the Storm win was justice for the team, an even greater justice was done to one of the Storm players – Clint Newton, son of golfing great Jack Newton.
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Newton was harshly, even inexplicably, “shown the door” by the Newcastle Knights coach Brian Smith (who has never won a grand final) early in the season, and was snapped up by the Storm. The rest is history – 24 games for the Storm in 2007, a try in the grand final, and a premiership ring to boot.
The victory was also a comprehensive vindication of the strategy — pursued against much criticism — by the Storm coach Craig Bellamy. He stuck with Greg Inglis at five-eighth and last night Inglis repaid his confidence by the bucket load. Inglis won the Clive Churchill Medal (the AFL equivalent is the Norm Smith Medal), and earned a 9.5 out of 10 rating in several newspaper reports today.
When the Storm last (and first) won the premiership in 1999 there were high expectations for the game in Melbourne. They were never quite delivered, but on the basis of this year’s vastly improved attendances, and a state of the art stadium as their home base within a couple of years, the future now looks bright indeed. All it really needs is for Channel Nine to get over its loss of the AFL rights and give the Storm reasonable coverage in Melbourne.
For the Sea Eagles, the result will be demoralising. But the team has shown enough this year to indicate it will be a serious contender again in 2008. In most seasons, the Sea Eagles form would have just about been enough to secure a grand final. Last night it came up against a team that led the premiership race virtually from go to whoa.
The debate about the night time grand final concept will probably resume today. While it is a pointless debate as Nine won’t budge and the NRL won’t force it to, for my money the night time grand final has precious little to commend it.
The 2007 grand final won’t go down in the annals of the game as one of the best, but the winners will surely go down as one of the most worthy. The Storm were just too good – in attack and in defence – as they have been since March.
There was no injustice last night – the Storm are worthy 2007 NRL premiers.