2012 NRL Grand Final Preview – Canterbury Bulldogs vs Melbourne Storm

So here we are, Grand Final week and in a few days time lives will be changed.

As a fan this whole week reminds me of 2003 when my Penrith Panthers made the Grand Final. I was never nervous at all, just confident.I enjoyed that entire season and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Experiencing a Grand Final run like that, I can die a happy man. It is a feeling I hope every fan base gets to experience at least once in their lifetime.

For Bulldogs and Storm fans, they have been to the big dance in the last decade. They’re familiar with the excitement of Grand Final week.

So, lets have a look at the Grand Finals teams shall we!

The Melbourne Storm
Coming into this season people expected the Storm to do OK but not as good as they turned out to be. At the start of the season they looked so unstoppable that a few whispered they could go unbeaten. State Of Origin hit the Storm really hard and it has honestly only in their last two games where they have looked completely over the Origin hangover.

All the talk about the Storm usually surround Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, but this side runs off the back of the work Cameron Smith does out of dummy half. He has played brilliantly in their last few games and if he has a blinder it is going to be difficult for this big Bulldogs pack to keep up. When you look at what he did in week one of the finals series against the Rabbitohs huge pack, you can see he has the ability to be the most important player in the game on Sunday evening.

Not much has been said this week about Gareth Widdop’s form this season. He is one of the most under rated playmakers in the game. He almost a similar role to Billy Slater in a lot of ways. Keep in mind, his natural position is fullback, so to be a Grand Finalist in the halves is an amazing achievement and one all English fans should be really proud of.

This Storm team runs plays so fast and have so many options in their plays, they are a nightmare to try and stop. Throw in a forward pack that keeps it simple and does the grunt work really well and it makes this Storm side as good as any you will ever see.

Storm Official Grand Final Team Lineup
Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jessie Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Bryan Norrie, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Todd Lowire. Interchange: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kevin Proctor, Jaiman Lowe, Richie Fa’aoso, Rory Kostjayson, Mahe Fonua, Siosaia Vave, Anthony Quinn

The Canterbury Bulldogs
The late appointment of Des Hasler should have had an effect on the Bulldogs this season. Luckily for the Dogs, Hasler really hit the ground running with his new team and over the course of the year we saw them improve month after month to the point where they claimed the Minor Premiership.

The amazing thing about the improvement in the Bulldogs is that Hasler didn’t try to come in and mould this team into what he knew worked at the Sea Eagles. He looked at the players he had to work with and formed a game plan around them. That is the true sign of an elite coach.

The Bulldogs have an amazing forward pack with a lot of depth. It gives them the ability to play a very big pack, much bigger than most other teams, and to use the players in the forwards in way they might not normally have been able to do if they didn’t have so much depth. Instead of just having the forwards to pure grunt work, they use the ball a lot. It has become one of the Bulldogs signatures this season with Pritchard, Kasiano and Graham all taking on the line but playing the ball before it and pressuring the defense on the edges.

Throw in Ennis and Reynolds mixing it up and this is a really exciting side to watch and very different from most other teams. It has been a fantastic season for the Doggies and with the quality they have across the field, they are going to be so hard to beat.

Bulldogs Official Grand Final Team Lineup
Ben Barba, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Aiden Tolman, Mick Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Greg Eastwood. Interchange:James Graham, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Dene Halatau

The X Factors
Josh Morris has been in incredible form over the last month and on more than one occasion has made something out of nothing. The Storm won’t be able to give him an inch because he has been making breaks taking on the defense and also testing them with pure speed down the sideline.

We all know what Slater and Barba can do, but Barba really needs to find a new level in this game because we know Billy Slater will. For the Storm though I think Widdop and Hoffman are really the players that, if they have blinders, they will make the Storm almost impossible to beat. They put so much pressure of the edges and when they are in form the Storm are rolling through any opposition.

The Winner
The Doggies were the best team over the regular season and showed in the finals they can lift., I tipped this Storm team at the beginning of the year and if you read my site enough you know, I always find it hard to tip against them. They are something really special.

I love the clash of styles these two teams throw up and with the two best coaches in the game going head to head, I think we are in for a classic. My tip for the 2012 NRL Grand Final?

I tip the Melbourne Storm by a scoreline of 32-16.

NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final Day Entertainment
10:00am: Gates Open – Telstra Grand Final Precinct
11:45am: Gates Open – ANZ Stadium
12:05pm: Kick-off – VB NSW Cup Grand Final
12:45pm: Half-time – VB NSW Cup Grand Final
2:00pm: Kick-off – Toyota Cup Grand Final
2:45pm: Half-time – Toyota Cup Grand Final
4:35pm: Pre-match Entertainment and Presentation to Retiring Players, Live Performance by ‘The Script’
4:45pm: Telstra Premiership Trophy arrives on Telstra ChildFlight Helicopter
4:50pm: ‘Good Charlotte’ Perform
5:12pm: Grand Final Teams Entry
5.14pm: National Anthem – Sarah De Bono
5.15pm: Kick-off – NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final
6.00pm: Half-time – NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final; presentation of the eighth Immortal
7:00pm: Post-game Presentation followed by lap of honour

So there we have it. A big end to the 2012 season is assured! Log in, leave a comment and have your say. Give your Grand Final tips and lets see who gets closest to the winning margin!

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