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The ultimate punting guide to the 2016 NRL Grand Final

Sunday, October 2 from 7.15pm at ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Head-to-head betting:
Melbourne Storm: $1.85
Cronulla Sharks: $2 with Sportsbet

Big win, little win (at 80 mins):
Melbourne Storm: (1-12) $3 with Sportsbet
Melbourne Storm: (13+) $4.50
Cronulla Sharks: (1-12) $3.10
Cronulla Sharks: (13+) $5.50
Draw: $15

Points spread line:
Melbourne Storm: (-1.5) $1.91
Cronulla Sharks: (+1.5) $1.91

THE Cronulla Sharks will be out to win their first NRL Premiership since joining the big league back in 1967 when the whistle blows for the 2016 Grand Final at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night.

But it will be no easy task for the boys in black, white and blue, with the Sharkies coming up against the minor premiers, the Melbourne Storm, who have won their past three games heading into the decider, including a nail-biting 14-12 triumph over the Canberra Raiders in their Preliminary Final last weekend.

For the Sharks, it would have been hard to imagine they would be staring down the barrel of a Premiership win when, just a few years ago, the club was caught up in the drug scandal which also engulfed the AFL Club Essendon.

One of the players to accept a 12-month backdated ban over the fiasco was Cronulla captain, Paul Gallen.

Now, Gallen is focusing on the future as he prepares to make his grand final debut this Sunday, having spent his entire 278-game NRL career at the Sharks since 2001.

“At the time, playing football and winning grand finals was the furthest thing from our mind,” Gallen said of the period surrounding the supplements scandal.

“We weren’t in a good place; I think a lot of you guys know that. But that’s all done now.

“We rebuilt last year, we’re here this year with a great squad, a really good mix of youth and experience.

“Them dark days are gone, it’s all good times ahead for us and hopefully it finishes the year with a grand final win.”

The 35-year-old announced he would play on in 2017 last month amid speculation this season may be his last, however some are now questioning his decision to return for another season should Cronulla secure the sport’s highest honor this weekend.

One team which doesn’t care about the feel-good, fairytale surrounding Cronulla’s maiden Premiership bid is Melbourne. Craig Bellamy’s men played a precise game on Saturday night against the Raiders, exhibiting brilliant ball control, with their completion rates close to perfection.

Nevertheless, it was a tough battle, with the Raiders throwing absolutely everything they had at the purple wall, with the Canberra boys fumbling a few passes which could have made all the difference come full-time.

The performance on Saturday was typical of Melbourne – they just know how to keep winning.

They aren’t a team which sets out to dazzle with elaborate plays or razzle dazzle football – but they always get the little things right which works in a lethal combination with their excellent defense and clinical execution.

Will that Melbourne Storm tradition of success extend to one final game in 2016? Let’s look at the betting.

Melbourne Storm vs. Cronulla Sharks first try scorer odds and tips

Melbourne Storm first try scorer odds:

Suliasi Vunivalu $8
Marika Koroibete $10
Cooper Cronk $15
Cheyse Blair $15
Will Chambers $15
Cameron Munster $18
Tohu Harris $26
Blake Green $26
Kevin Proctor $26
Jesse Bromwich $34
Cameron Smith $41
Dale Finucane $46
Jordan McLean $61
Ben Hampton $81
Kenny Bromwich $101
Christian Welch $101
Tim Glasby $101

Suliasi Vunivalu is a try-scoring machine, having crossed the white line on 23 occasions since making his first grade debut against the Tigers in round seven. His breakout season has made him a contender for rookie of the year alongside other hopefuls such as Ash Taylor (Gold Coast Titans) and Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers) and on top of that he is a big chance of walking away from the field on Sunday with a premiership ring on his finger. Hard to know how he will handle the pressure of the sport’s biggest game so early in his career, but he has barely put a foot wrong thus far so it is hard to go past the flying Fijian.

Cronulla Sharks first try scorer odds:

Valentine Holmes $9.50
Sosaia Feki $11
Ben Barba $14
Jack Bird $18
Luke Lewis $20
Ricky Leutele $20
James Maloney $23
Gerard Beale $26
Wade Graham $26
Chad Townsend $31
Andrew Fifita $34
Paul Gallen $41
Michael Ennis $41
Matt Prior $46
Chris Heighington $101
Jayson Bukuya $101
Sam Tagataese $101

We are fairly confident Suliasi Vunivalu will score the first try in the grand final, however if the Sharkies manage to break clear with the ball we will be watching for Valentine Holmes or Ben Barba to put the first points on the board.

Holmes has scored 19 tries in 2016, matching the club record set by David Peachey back in 1999. There would be no greater stage to create club history on than scoring a four-pointer in a grand final, and we reckon he is a good chance of being the first to do so.

We have also thrown Ben Barba into the mix – he represents value at $14. There is a bit of speculation surrounding Barba who is recovering from a knee injury sustained in last week’s win over North Queensland.

He conceded on Tuesday he isn’t 100 per cent fit heading into the grand final, but he is a quality player and it is amazing what adrenaline can do especially being the last and most important game of the year.

Clive Churchill Medal winner

Who will be named best on the field when the sirens blare for the end of the 2016 NRL season? Cooper Cronk, who is tipped to win the Dally M Medal on Wednesday night, is the favourite to also take out the Clive Churchill Medal on Sunday.

Cronk has had a massive year, setting up 29 tries, with 22 line breaks and 12 of his own tries – he is a professional and he knows how to handle the pressure of these big games. Expect a colossal performance from the 32-year-old on Sunday.

However, if you think the Sharkies will cause an upset and score their first Premiership win, our tip to take home the Clive Churchill Medal is James Maloney.

In his first year at Cronulla, the five-eighth has been instrumental in the Sharks charge towards the the grand final and he was the man of the match in last week’s Preliminary final over the Cowboys.

He is set to be his teams key player on Sunday in what will be his third grand final playing for a third club and he definitely represents value.

Clive Churchill Medal:

Cooper Cronk $5
Cameron Smith $5
James Maloney $9
Ben Barba $11
Paul Gallen $11
Michael Ennis $13
Andrew Fifita $15
Jesse Bromwich $15
Luke Lewis $17
Wade Graham $17
Cameron Munster $21
Chad Townsend $26
Jack Bird $26
Blake Green $26
Tohu Harris $31
Kevin Proctor $31
Valentine Holmes $51
Will Chambers $51
Suliasi Vunivalu $51
Dale Finucane $67
Matt Prior $67
Jordan McLean $67
Jayson Bukuya $81
Cheyse Blair $101
Kenny Bromwich $101
Ricky Leutele $101
Chris Heighington $101
Sosaia Feki $101
Marika Koroibete $101
Christian Welch $151
Kurt Capewell $151
Tim Glasby $151
Gerard Beale $151
Ben Hampton $151

Storm vs. Sharks game predictions

While our hearts say Sharks wanting to see a fairytale result on the weekend, we are going with our heads and backing Melbourne for the win.

They are the minor premiers for a reason – the Storm are a brutal team who excel on the big stage with clinical precision.

We don’t think it is going to be as tight as last year’s Broncos vs. Cowboys clash – so we are going to have a bit of fun with the line betting to try and snag some extra value.

Tip: Melbourne Storm (-5.5) at $2.45 with Sportsbet

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