Storm’s competition to lose
There we have it, your 2017 team to beat. The Melbourne Storm have been the bench mark team all year and they will play in September with a large deal of expectation as they have been dubbed the premiers already by many. The Storm did it easy against Canberra, they lead 20-0 after just 20 minutes and from there just seemed to be in cruise control. They notched up their 20th win of the season while disposing of Canberra as they lifted the Minor Premiership shield for the second year running. The Storm have been faultless in the last 3 weeks scoring 140 points while only conceding 24. Next up for Melbourne, a qualifying final against a red-hot Parramatta Eels side in Melbourne in what promises to be an epic, it could in fact be a Grand Final preview. The Storm will look to avenge last year’s heart break by sweeping their competitors out of the water.
Season of Disappointment
It seems to be the common trend for the Canberra Raiders, big expectations leads to big failure and that just seemed to be the case once again in 2017. The bookies had Canberra among one of the favourites to take out the competition but a disappointing campaign saw them finish outside the top 8. A season of what ifs for Canberra as they lost eight games by six or less points, win two of those and they are playing finals footy. Saturday night’s loss against the Storm summed up Canberra’s season, they just lacked the final product to finish their opportunities. The Raiders were by no means bad against Melbourne, they in fact threw the ball around and tired the big Storm pack out, although they got nowhere near Melbourne, they gave other teams a blue print on how to play against the Storm. For the Green Machine, they will go back to the drawing board with coach Ricky Stuart knowing his side are still in a premiership window.
Suliasi Vunivalu is a FREAK
Wow oh wow isn’t this boy good? Suliasi Vunivalu capped off another miraculous season as he finished as the competitions top try scorer for the second year in a row. Vunivalu is the first man since Nathan Blacklock (1999-2001) to score 23 plus tries in consecutive seasons. The flying Fijian will meet his counterpart and fellow country man, Semi Radradra in the Qualifying Final in a mouth-watering clash. Vunivalu on the night needed one try to take the honours from South Sydney Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston and that he did crossing over in the 62nd minute to steal the honours.
Night of Milestones
On an unforgettable night for the Melbourne Storm they farewelled one of their favourite sons in legendary half back Cooper Cronk. Cronk announced midway through the season that it would be his last in Melbourne colours as he wants to move closer to his fiancé Tara Rushton. Cronk played his final home and away game at AAMI park as he was farewelled in front of just over 20,000 fans. The champion pivot was taken off the field on the shoulders of the other two from the big three in Billy Slater and Cameron Smith in a touching moment. Cameron Smith also did what only Darren Lockyer has done before to notch up his 355th game equalling the Brisbane Broncos legends game tally. Smith will beat Lockyer’s record this weekend as the legendary hooker will lace up the boots for the 366th time in the NRL. Although forgotten, Canberra backrower Iosia Soliola played his 150th NRL game and five-eight Blake Austin played his 100th NRL game.