NRL 2017 | Free Grand Final Preview

NRL 2017 | Free Grand Final Preview

NRL 2017 | Free Grand Final Preview

MrG provides NRL Tips Previews Sports Betting content each week for our Reading The Play NRL subscribers.

2013-17: Profit +111.12 units | 341 winners / 623 bets | strike rate 54.7%

Grand Final 2017 Game Handicap

MrG’s Ratings

-11.5 Storm vs Cowboys

Key Contest Stats

Kind thanks to Mark Hull a good friend and keen NRL follower who complies a weekly list of key stats and insights for each game. You can also follow Mark on Twitter here @FootyAssist

Game Preview

Finals Facts

8 of last 10 Premiers were one of the Top 2 defensive sides that season. #1 and #2 Defensive sides this season – Storm (then Sharks)

Storm have been based at home for 5 weeks, zero travel, and extra day turn around into GF. 13 of last 17 Premiers won comp off a week off

6 of the last 7 grand finalists who had played 4 wks straight, have lost. The team that won? The Cowboys

Cowboys Away & Away underdog record – covering 11 of last 13 interstate & 9 of last 12 as an interstate underdog of more than 6

Storm 11 of 14 vs top 8 sides Cowboys are 6 of 10

Cowboys have lost last 5 straight vs Storm, but have won last 6 straight at Homebush; Storm have won 5 of last 8 at Homebush

Storm vs Cowboys

-11.5 Storm


HISTORY – Played 35, Storm 25, Cowboys 10

AT ANZ STADIUM – First Meeting

FINALS HISTORY – Played 3, Storm 1, Cowboys 2

Storms Record at ANZ Stadium – Played 18, Won 12, Lost 6

Storms Finals Record at ANZ Stadium – Played 9, Won 5, Lost 4

Cowboys Record at ANZ Stadium – Played 23, Won 10, Lost 13

Cowboys Finals Record at ANZ Stadium – Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3

The Numbers for the Storm

The Minor Premiers recorded 22 wins and 4 losses to this point to make the Grand Final, with a longest winning streak (and current) of 9 from Rounds 20 to the Preliminary Final. They have again been the bench mark in 2017, spending 25 weeks in the Top 2, 19 consecutive weeks in the Top spot and were never positioned out of the Top 6. At the conclusion of the regular season their attack and defensive efforts had them ranking at the top of the charts, scoring 633 points at an average of 26.4 PPG, while conceding 336 points at an average of 14, giving them a 297 point differential that was also the best in the NRL. Only on 6 occasions all season have Melbourne conceded more than 16 points. They scored 112 tries after 26 Rounds to be ranked 1st (up 16 on 2016 and 9 more than the 2nd placed Broncos), while their 57 tries conceded was the best in the competition, with only 8 of those conceded through their middle 3rd, which was also the best record in the league, for the 3rd year in a row. They finished the regular season 14-10 ATS which ranked equal 2nd , with a 9-3 cover record away from home, while they have covered in 4 of the last 5 clashes with the Cowboys. In total match points they were 14-10 in favour of the Unders and 10 of their last 12 Finals matches have also finished Under, while in 5 of their last 7 matches at ANZ Stadium the match points have finished Under as well. Melbourne has won 18 of 20 in 2017 with a half time lead, while they have overcome a half time deficit in 3 of 4 and in their last 9 matches, only once have they been outscored in the 2nd half. The Storm has scored the 1st try of the match in 17 of their 26 matches and have gone on to win all 17 of those. Suliasa Vunivalu has scored 3 tries in his last 3 games against the Cowboys and has 9 tries in his last 8 games. They have played 11 games over the last 2 seasons on a Sunday, winning 9 of those and the last 7 of them have all been decided by a margin of 1-12 points. This will be Melbourne’s 7th Grand Final appearance since entering the competition in 1998, they won in 1999, 2007 and 2009, but were stripped of the latter 2 for salary cap breaches before claiming another victory in 2012.

The Numbers for the Cowboys

The Cowboys will contest their 3rd Grand Final since entering the competition in 1995 and their 2nd in 3 years after securing their maiden Premiership in 2015. They recorded 16 wins and 11 losses to get to the big dance and it’s the 3rd straight year that they have at least made it to a Preliminary Final. They have had the odds stacked against them for most of the season after losing both Captains early on, with Matt Scott ruled out after Round 2, while Johnathan Thurston played just 1 game from Round 7. Their longest winning streak was just 4 games from Rounds 16-20, while they lost 5 of 6 games through Rounds 21-26. They finished the regular season with an attack that ranked 10th , scoring 467 points at an average of just under 20 PPG, while they ranked 5th in defence, conceding 443 at an average of just under 19. Their 24 point differential ranked 10th and they were the last of the sides to finish in the positive. The Cowboys have a much better record in the 2nd halves of matches, with only the Storm and Sharks conceding fewer 2nd half points than the Cowboys after 26 Rounds, while they have now outscored their opponent in 5 of their last 6 and as mentioned previously, they have also won the 2nd half in 10 of their last 11 Finals. In 4 of the Cowboys last 5 matches they have conceded 16 points or fewer. The Cowboys scored 77 tries after 26 Rounds to be ranked 13th, while their 78 tries conceded saw them rank 7th . Win or lose, the Cowboys will finish the 2017 season as the Number 1 cover side in the NRL, covering in two thirds of their 27 matches so far, 13 of which were from 15 road games, while since 2014 they have a 21- 8 cover record as an interstate underdog and have covered in 10 of their last 13 Finals, including their last 6 straight at ANZ Stadium. They are 17-10 Under in total match points, including 7 of their last 11, but they have had Overs results in 8 of their last 12 Finals. The Cowboys have won 8 of 12 with a half time lead, while they are 7-7 when trailing at the break. North Queensland have given up the 1st try of the match in 11 of their last 13, but have scored the last try in 5 of their last 6 and in 10 of their last 11 Finals matches. Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt has scored 6 tries in his last 5 games and needs just 2 more to reach 50 career tries, while he has scored 8 tries in his last 9 Finals appearances. Like Melbourne, the Cowboys also have a good record in Sunday games, winning 6 of their last 8, while they also have a very good record at ANZ Stadium, winning their last 6 at the ground.

Head to Head

Melbourne holds a 25-10 all time advanatge over the Cowboys and has dominated in recent seasons, having won 6 of the last 7, including the last 5 straight, with the Cowboys only win coming in the 2015 Preliminary Final when they marched on to their maiden Premiership. While Melbourne has had the lion share of victories, there has been little between the 2 sides in recent seasons, with 6 of the last 8 clashes decided by 6 points or less, including 2 Golden Point results. Low scoring affairs have been the norm, with 7 of the last 9 failing to breach 35, while a Penalty Goal has opened the scoring in 3 of the last 4. Melbourne has scored the 1st try of the match in 6 of the last 8 meetings, while the Cowboys have scored the last try of the game in 6 of those 8. The home side has won 6 of the last 9 clashes but that will count for little as they meet on neutral ground for only the 3rd time ever and the 1st time in a Final since 2005. The Storm had the week off before their Preliminary Final which has proven to be a huge advantage, with 13 of the last 17 Premiers since the year 2000 going on to win the Grand Final after the weeks break (76%). Only twice in the previous 8 encounters have the Cowboys led the Storm at half time, while the half time leader has won 11 of the previous 14 Grand Finals. Only on 3 occasions from the previous 20 meetings with the Storm have the Cowboys scored more than 12 1st half points at an average of 7. Melbourne has a 7-6 record over the last 2 seasons with Matt Cecchin as lead referee, while they are 6-7 ATS with a 10-2 total number in favour of the Under and in their previous 8, only last week’s win over the Broncos had a margin result of 13+. The Cowboys have won 10 of their last 11 with Cecchin in charge, with an 8-3 cover record and a total number of 10-1 Over. Starting favourites have won 9 of the last 11 matches with Cecchin as the main whistle blower, with 7 of the 11 resulting in Unders


Let’s start at the start. Across the season the Storm lost just 4 games, two of those when with Origin outs and were the best defensive side on the table at just 14 points a game, I can assure you in today’s modern game a low and key number. We can talk all we like of this influence and that on any game out come but one key factor that has stood the test of time is defence, it doesn’t lie, and 90% of the Premiership winners across the last 20 years have been one of the top two defensive teams of that season. The Cowboys have lost 11 games this season and have averaged just over 18 pts in defence a game, and prior to falling into 8th spot had been somewhat cruelled by injury losing first Scott then mid-year Thurston, yet now on the back of this wonderful magic run find themselves in the final deciding game. Importantly across their last 5 games the highest defensive leak from both of these two teams has been 16 points.

The week off? The bottom line is it’s a massive advantage. The Cowboys are the only side in the last 7 years when under the top 8 scenario to have won playing 4 weeks straight, and we are yet to see a team come from 8th spot an win. Further to this, 13 of the last 17 winners have won off having the week off through the finals period.

So how do we line the Cowboys up? I think there is two sides to this. Coach Green is an outstanding coach and he has near performed a miracle in balancing this list back up, gifting them belief and confidence and now got them to where they are. While them may have lost 6 of their last 7 games prior to the finals series they played each week as they do now, huge attitude, turned up to every play, and probably lacked some luck. What they have done for 10 weeks now and has become far more obvious to all through the recent 3 finals is that they play with lots of discipline, they make very few errors, play a smart kick game and field position and defend stoutly. They can be put away, ask the Sharks and Roosters, but if you feed them extra opportunity you leave them in the game, or invite them back into the game, and they’ll just keep turning up.

I love what they have done through the last 3 weeks, in fact it has been a breath of fresh air and new life into the finals series, but let’s also be objective for a minute. The Sharks were poor, flat, error ridden and very poor defensively (18 errors and 29 missed tackles), beaten by a point in extra time. The Eels well down on their impressive effort the week prior (vs Storm), poor game plan and again error riddled execution and defensive offering, 12 errors and 27 missed tackles. Then the Roosters, 13 errors, 22 missed tackles, two kick offs out on the full and the majority of their handling errors made at their end of the park. For many of the Cowboys successful plays the only thing the Roosters didn’t do was gift wrap the scoring play!

What I am suggesting folks is that the Cowboys have been great, give them an inch or invite them into the contest and they’ll do more than just hand around – but they also in my opinion had a hefty leg up from three poor opponents. That happens, you take your chances, in no way does it decry the attitude and efforts of the Cowboys, that’s why we love sport! But the Storm 9 weeks out of 10 don’t give you that help.

The Cowboys plan? For the most part it will be more of the same, high discipline with the ball, complete sets (one of the best in the business at this), lots of simple yardage plays (they have a great work ethic from their back 5) and smart tactical kicking to the corners from Morgan. Physically where possible they need to take it to the Storm in the middle (not necessarily their strength) and use Granville and or links with Morgan, Coote and Martin as much as possible to break the line and open things up. But they now should face the best defensive offering in the game, this will be a different battle.

Weakness? The Cowboys can be vulnerable across the period that both Granville and Taumalolo are off the park together, normally late first half into 15 or so minute mark second half. Their left edge defence is their major weak spot, in particular Martin, the Broncos hit and exposed this well just a few weeks ago, and no one picks apart and attacks down their right edge better than the Storm.

The Storm. Well they have been the benchmark all season long, they have their full list, they have quality bench depth and they have key strike. They were both fresh and rusty through the opening 30 minutes last week, uncustomary shite kicking game, offered up 7 x 7 tackles sets, played their field position game up side down yet when given a half chance on their left edge turned it into a 8 point half time lead, confidence builder and then just went up in gears as the second 40 unfolded. Let’s not be wrong, the Broncos physical approach shortened them up some, and they got caught twice on their right edge yet were not punished. They play a compressed defensive line and like to invite their opponents to test their arm and play width and or around them, as more often than not this leads to risk and error, but against a team that leaks very little you just can’t bust an opportunity. What also seems forgotten is that the first half in last week’s game was played at a frantic pace, a further positive for mine in the Storm’s return off their break and prep into this week.

I expect that the Storm will have come on off that outing last week and will only improve. They will have worked on the kick execution, positioning and field position plays, and when they get most of this basic stuff right they give you little. They will look to play either hit back plays back in behind the Cows big men behind the ruck and play the ball; their off load and second phase game is very dangerous and opens up key attack plays so often; and they’ll fancy themselves hitting down each outside edge. The guy in the middle could play in a dinner suit should he wish the quality of his game and read of play has now gone to such a level, he’s the man making it all happen.

Weak or target areas for the Storm? Challenging their compressed defensive line has been a key focus for Green and the Cowboys in the past, attempting quick ball shifts to try and play outside them. Passing and ball play before the line through the middle will break them up, they can also get caught behind the play the ball and Addo-Carr is now an often spotted target.

If the Storm are anywhere near right on the day then they look very hard to beat. I’d suggest that 9 times out of 10 they get this right, they turn up very well prepared, play the smarts of control, discipline, kick and field position and most notably not offer their opponent anything like the amount of ball or opportunity that they have been given through the last three weeks. The Storm have a method of play after play, discipline, control and field position that one error, one missed play and then they pounce, grind you, accumulate points, and then come back to do it all over again, and then again. What beats most teams, and last week’s Broncos game a perfect example is that you have to be able to go with them, period after period after period and refrain from giving them anything, as within minutes an error, penalty, set play set or repeat set off your own line can lead to multiple sets, possession swing and consecutive points plays. Very well coached, very few errors, very few weaknesses.

I’ve been with the Storm since February, but that aside when I then handicap the game as I would any NRL match up I have it 11.5 between them, and a strong leaning to the Storm lifting through the last 30 minutes and potentially racking up a margin. We have 1st vs 8th, the minor premiers who lost just 4 games, the best defence and the hunger and motivation of a Grand Final loss just 12 months ago. They look very hard to beat.

Storm 28-10

Storm -10.0 $1.91 William Hill

Clive Churchill Medal – Billy Slater $8.00 Tabsportsbet

Suliasi Vunivalu to score a try and Melbourne Storm 13+ $2.75 Sportsbet

Intrust Super State Championship Penrith Panthers -4.5 $1.90 William Hill


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Mr.G provides our NRL Tips Previews Sports Betting

Having coached at a senior level for 16 years including 3 years on the coaching staff of an NRL club Mr G is an avid student of the game. He’s coached sides to win titles at a senior level, run the football arm of a successful district club, managed professional players and worked in various development roles, so it’s fair to say the game of Rugby League is certainly in his blood and supports an experienced and unique offering.

Mr G’s NRL previews and betting tips combine this knowledge and ‘read’ of the current weekly form with a statistical and betting analysis to provide his followers with a unique and successful approach. He spends hours each week watching and reviewing each and every game assessing the strengths and weakness of the form to then weigh against that of the betting markets. His previews and betting tips have been published on the internet via two sports forums for 7 years prior to his public offering through Reading The Play.

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