The 109th NRL season ended with the two best sport teams of 2016 clashing it out to determine who would ultimately be the season’s strongest team. They were the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and the Melbourne Storm, two teams who had fought their way into the grand finale, a match that took place at the infamous ANZ Stadium in Sydney with a humongous crowd numbering 83,625.
The history of the teams
A crowd favourite for this grand finale was the Melbourne Storm. They’ve always been recognised as a pleaser of the crowds with their superb plays and team sportsmanship. Make no mistake; they’ve qualified for six grand finals in only ten years. They were the deciders of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Nothing short of being recognised as one of the best, the Melbourne Storm held three premiership titles, but was only recognised for their 2012 premiership. However, that was only due to the major breaches uncovered in the NRL’s regulated salary cap for players.
The other contender, and opposition to the Melbourne Sharks, and held by some as the underdogs were the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks. There was reason to underestimate them as in the 49 seasons they had played; they have never won a grand final premiership. More than that, the only previous grand final appearance they had been in 1978.
The team’s rivalry
A historic stage was set for both teams, as the last time the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and the Melbourne Storm had clashed against one another, it was during the final series of the 2008 season. The Storm crushed and defeated the Sharks with a unforgiving 28-0 win to move onto the grand finals. During the 2016 season, the two teams faced each other in round 4, where the Sharks were able to beat the Storm in a decisive 14-6 win. This was the Storm’s first loss of the season, and the start of the sixteen match streak by the Sharks. However in round 26, the two teams clashed again where the Storm settled the score with a 26-6 win at home turf.
The game itself was an intense and passionate match. Exceptional and commendable plays were performed by valiant players on both teams. At the same time penalties were made for some of the action in the match. In the first half of the match, we saw Chad Townsend of the Sharks targeted by a swinging arm from Marika Koroibete who was penalised. This led to James Maloney in the eighth minute scoring with a penalised goal.
In a moment of recklessness and a weak defence, we saw Paul Gallen capable of fully supporting Ben Barba with a fantastic scrum-base move that led to the first try. As a result, Maloney was able to successfully convert the goal. The Sharks held a strong 8-0 lead. However after their successful try, the Storm took a moment to get together and formed a very commendable and impenetrable defence. Even though they held a dominate field position and were averaging long ball possession timings, the Sharks were unable to score another try for the first half.
With the commencement of the second half, we saw the Melbourne Storm return to their famous rhythm. Key players Jesse Bromwich and Will Chambers were able to score tries against the Shark’s defences, and Cameron Smith crucially converted both. What seemed like a capable and strong lead by the Sharks was shortly beset by a 12-8 lead by the Storm. However, Andrew Fifita countered with an exceptional play, defying and dodging beautifully five of the Storm’s defenders and scoring a try that was converted by Maloney. It was a 14-12 score with only nine minutes left.
It was an intense nine minutes for everyone as we watched with baited breath. In the last few seconds, the Storm had a small window to recover with a replay that could have secured them the victory However, the Shark’s in a desperate defence were able to hold off from the Storm, following the right side to left side feints by the Storm and were victorious.
You can see that there is good reason why that the two best teams in the NRL for the 2016 season were the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and the Melbourne Storm. The Sharks were able to win their first ever premiership with their amazing teamwork and plays. However, it’s safe to say that the Storm were more than capable themselves and deserving as the second best NRL team for 2016.