Sunday, October 01, 2017

Melbourne Storm: 2017 NRL Premiers



A formidable performance from one of the most dominant club sides of the NRL era has culminated in a deserved 34-6 Grand Final win for Melbourne on the back of starring roles from big-game players Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.

The North Queensland Cowboys battled bravely right to the end were barely in the contest right from the outset against a Storm side that were clinical and relentless from the opening whistle in Cronk's final game in purple.

It is fitting that the final club game from that trio saw all three bring their best to the game's biggest stage, scoring or helping create four tries. They got plenty of assistance from their dominant forward pack and some moment of brilliance from exciting young stars like Josh Addo-Carr.

The score-line reflected the sheer dominance of Melbourne's performances right from Round 1 this year but did not fairly reflect the effort the Cowboys put into a contest.


The match started in horrific fashion for the Cowboys with play held up for several minutes while prop Shaun Fensom received medical attention and was taken from the field after just four minutes.

Attempting to stop a charging Jesse Bromwich along with teammate Ethan Lowe, the latter landed awkwardly on Fensom's ankle. He immediately signalled for the trainer and there was a delay of several minutes while Fensom was administered pain relief and loaded onto a medicab.

While North Queensland managed to weather the storm for the opening 20 minutes the favourites started to flex their muscle from midway through the half.

First Will Chambers received a Cowboys bat-back from an attacking bomb near Melbourne's end and offloaded to a breakaway Josh Addo-Carr who streaked 70 metres to open the scoring.

After a few more sets of dominant and a Smith grubber for a repeat set, Melbourne extended their lead when Felise Kaufusi carved past Te Maire Martin off a nice Billy Slater pass in the 28th minute.

When Antonio Winterstein charged onto a Cooper Cronk attacking grubber and fumbled it at his own line it set the stage for yet another Storm assault and this time Slater went himself, slicing through an increasingly brittle-looking Cowboys left edge defence to make it 18-0 at the break.

The Cowboys desperately needed to be first to score in the second half against the competition's best front-runners and they got some help from the Storm, who handed over five straight penalties through offside and ruck infringements to camp the Cowboys in attacking range and allow Te Maire Martin to slice through.

That was as good as it got for the Cowboys though as an unstoppable Storm outfit exploded late in similar fashion to that in which they put Brisbane to the sword a week earlier.

Bega-born lock Dale Finucane exploded onto a Smith flat ball at the line to burst over in the 64th minute; a simple error from Kane Linnett coughed the ball up to Josh Addo-Carr who offloaded to an unmarked Curtis Scott three minutes later. Addo-Carr bagged his double in the 73rd minute after some lovely lead-up work from Cronk and Slater before a beautiful long-cut-out from Tohu Harris to seal the dominant 34-6 result.

Melbourne Storm 34 (Addo-Carr 2, Kaufusi, Slater, Finucane, Scott tries; Smith 5 goals) defeated North Queensland Cowboys 6 (Martin try; Lowe goal) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Storm 18-0. Crowd: 79,722.


Mr. Brightside



Coming out of my cage
And I've been doing just fine
Gotta gotta be down
Because I want it all
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head



But she's touching his chest
Now, he takes off her dress
Now, let me go
I just can't look its killing me
And taking control

Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibis
But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
Cause I'm Mr Brightside



I'm coming out of my cage
And I've been doing just fine
Gotta gotta be down
Because I want it all
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head



But she's touching his chest
Now, he takes off her dress
Now, let me go
'Cause I just can't look its killing me
And taking control



Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibi
But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
'Cause I'm Mr Brightside.

I never
I never
I never
I never...


Richmond Tigers: 2017 AFL Premiers

AFTER 37 long years Richmond has finally bared its fangs on Grand Final day again, mauling a lacklustre Adelaide with the relentless pressure that has become its trademark this September to seal an inspired 48-point premiership triumph before 100,021 fans at the MCG.

The Tigers sealed their 11th flag – and first since 1980 – with a run of seven unanswered goals from early in the second quarter that had the Crows staggering on the ropes just 10 minutes into the third term.

Richmond led by 28 points at that stage, having kept the Crows goalless for a quarter and a half. And when Taylor Walker finally broke Adelaide's goal drought with a 40m set shot midway through the third term, the Tigers swiftly killed off any hopes of a Crows comeback, rattling on the next four goals to take an unassailable 45-point lead early in the final term that had even the most pessimistic Richmond fans daring to believe.

Adelaide got three late consolation goals but nothing could take the gloss off Richmond's 16.12 (108) to 8.12 (60) triumph that Tigers fans had been dreaming about – often without much genuine hope – for a football eternity.

Adelaide's star-studded forward line loomed as a potential spoiler to the Tigers' fairytale, but Damien Hardwick's men provided the latest supporting argument for the football adage that defence wins premierships.

Alex Rance (11 possessions and six marks, three contested) was outstanding despite being manned by Crows forward Andy Otten, and was clearly best on ground when the game was at its fiercest in the first half.

Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin capped off a fairytale year for himself and his club when he won the Norm Smith Medal after starring with 29 possessions, six clearances and two goals.

David Astbury kept Walker to just two goals and little of his usual influence, while Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin conspired to shut down dangerous goalsneaks Eddie Betts and Charlie Cameron, and Bachar Houli (25 possessions and four rebound 50s) provided much of Richmond's defensive rebound.

The Tigers smashed the Crows in contested possessions (170-140) and won the clearances (45-39), thanks largely to the stoppage work of Martin, Dion Prestia (27 possessions and three centre clearances) and Shane Edwards (25 possessions and seven clearances).

Jack Graham was only teenager playing on Saturday but was not overawed by the occasion, kicking three goals in the opening three quarters, while Jack Riewoldt and the Tigers' army of small forwards harassed Adelaide's defenders all day as Richmond finished with 11 separate goalkickers.

Hardwick said his team's pressure was "a little bit off" in the first quarter, but improved from there.

"They were probably kicking more, so we couldn't exert that influence, but then we started to get going. We know if we play a certain way we're going to give ourselves a chance to win," Hardwick said.

"It's funny, I was speaking to Clarko on Monday night about the eeriness to the 2008 Hawks. I think in 2008 the Hawks lost to Richmond in about round 20 and played their best football thereafter.

"We lost to Geelong round (21) and then we just went whack, whack, whack, whack, whack, whack.

"We learned a lot of lessons from the games that we lost and we played our best footy when it mattered most."

The Tigers' win came on the back of a 13th-place finish in 2016 that had many calling for the coach's head.

But Hardwick kept his head and held his nerve, simplifying the Tigers' game play over the 2017 pre-season to take advantage of their pace and, after Ben Griffiths' lingering concussion issues, fashioned an unfashionable attack around 'Jack and his midgets'.

Before this season, the Tigers had not won a final since 2001, having lost elimination finals under Hardwick from 2013-15.

In defeating the Crows, Richmond continued a perfect record in return matches against teams that defeated it earlier in the season.

On Saturday, the Tigers avenged their 76-point thumping by the Crows in round six at Adelaide Oval, having earlier avenged losses to Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, St Kilda and Geelong. Richmond did not have return matches against its round seven conquerors, the Western Bulldogs, or Sydney, who defeated it in round 13.

Crows coach Don Pyke said his team's effort simply wasn't good enough.

"One of the things that is very hard from a coaching viewpoint is to provide effort. The players are responsible for effort. We try and encourage that, we try and demand that," Pyke said.

"We tried to do some structural things, but you're trying to put a patch on what's a fair wound, and when you're talking minus 25 (in contested possessions) in the third quarter, which is why we value it as a stat, and in fairness, a stat we've been very good at all year, that's probably the most disappointing part.

"It's an area of our game that we felt coming in we were strong and we didn't deliver today."

Life, death and a flag: meet the Tiger Army

On a nightmare day for the Crows, midfielders Matt Crouch (37 possessions and five clearances), Brad Crouch (29 and seven) and Rory Sloane (21 possessions and two goals) never stopped trying, Rory Laird (27 possessions at 88 per cent efficiency) tried to generate run from half-back, and Sam Jacobs dominated Toby Nankervis in the ruck contests, even if his midfielders could not take advantage of his tap work.

The Crows made the better start on Saturday. Sloane kicked the game's opening goal with a 40m set shot at the four-minute mark of the first term, then Betts added another a minute later when he capitalised on a Vlastuin fumble to run into an open goal.

The Tigers looked to be suffering some early Grand Final nerves and, although they had their share of the play, were struggling to get on the scoreboard, with spearhead Riewoldt kicking three consecutive behinds in less than four minutes.

Finally, at the 16-minute mark, Josh Caddy kicked their first goal and when Houli added another four minutes later the Tigers led for the first time, two points up on the Crows.

However, superb crumbing goals from Sloane and Hugh Greenwood late in the term sent Adelaide into the first break 11 points up.

The MCG's lights were switched on at the start of the second quarter as Melbourne skies clouded over, with rain starting to fall soon after.

The Crows had the first two scoring shots of the second term – behinds to Betts and Tom Lynch – but it was the Tigers' term from there.

With their tackling and chasing rising to 11 on the pressure-meter, Richmond piled on four unanswered goals, the first at the four-minute mark, when Riewoldt finally broke his duck with a 40m snap that was confirmed after a video review.

Jacob Townsend put the Tigers within two points midway through the term when he converted from 45m after a questionable holding free kick was paid against Jake Lever.

Graham and Martin then goaled in quick succession late in the quarter – Graham after a clever snap on the run, Martin following a strong mark in front of Luke Brown – to send the Tigers into half-time with a nine-point lead.


ADELAIDE       4.2     4.7      5.10     8.12       (60)
RICHMOND     2.3     6.4     11.8     16.12     (108)

GOALS
Adelaide: Sloane 2, Walker 2, Betts, Greenwood, B. Crouch, Cameron
Richmond: Graham 3, Townsend 2, Martin 2, Riewoldt 2, Caddy, Houli, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Prestia, Butler

BEST
Adelaide: M. Crouch, Jacobs, B. Crouch, Sloane, Laird
Richmond: Martin, Rance, Houli, Astbury, Prestia, Edwards, Graham, Grimes

INJURIES
Adelaide: Nil
Richmond: Rioli (ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Meredith, Ryan

Official crowd: 100,021 at the MCG