Almanac Rugby League – Five Metre Gap: NRL Grand Final and Koori Knockout



Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the NRL Grand Final. You likely watched the contest (given almost 3.4 million fans tuned in on television) which saw Melbourne claim a third premiership following a comprehensive 34-6 victory over North Queensland. On Sunday at ANZ Stadium there were three games with Manly and Penrith winning the lead-up fixtures and Monday in Sydney saw the Koori Knockout conclude.


Farewelling Cooper Cronk from the club the Melbourne Storm did it in style to win their first grand final since 2012 after beating the 2015 premiers the Cowboys six tries to one. Not since 2013 had the minor premiers also won the grand final and that was a unique scenario when the Roosters claimed both crowns having finished level with the Rabbitohs on 40 points before beating Manly in the decider. Craig Bellamy’s side scored three tries in each half with the Cowboys hindered early in the contest when middle forward Shaun Fensom was stretched off with a broken tibia and fibula as he attempted a tackle inside the first three minutes. Winger Josh Addo-Carr book-ended the tries for the Storm with Tongan international Felise Kaufusi and Clive Churchill Medallist Billy Slater scoring in the first half before four-pointers from former Bulldog Dale Finucane and Curtis Scott, 19, in the second stanza. Mid-season acquisition Te Maire Martin scored the only try for the Cowboys when he opened the second half scoring eight minutes in the period which made the score 18-6 before Melbourne kicked clear with three tries in a nine-minute period.


The Cowboys weren’t awful if all you look at is the margin. They kept to their recent trend of completing over 30 sets per game (the Thirty Set Standard – TSS – has shown in the past enough to win most NRL games) with 32/36 completions (89%) edging the Storm’s completion rate 34/39 (87%) but Melbourne’s variety of play and the experience of the big three (Cronk, Slate and skipper Cameron Smith) proved critical. The men in purple targeted edge defence of the Cowboys as Michael Morgan missed five tackles and forward Ethan Lowe seven.


In last year’s grand final Storm forward Jesse Bromwich ran for 135 metres from 16 runs and again topped his team on Sunday evening with 140 metres from 14 runs in his 54 minutes. Bromwich’s influence can be measured even better when you considered Jason Taumololo, who has regularly topped 200 plus metres in recent matches, ran for only 122 metres from his 12 runs in 59 minutes on the park. The Storm’s Smith ran for an usually high 131 metres for the hooker and had a noteworthy 100 possessions in the games guiding his team around the park and setting up key attacking plays throughout.


Sunday’s earlier action at ANZ Stadium saw Penrith beat Queensland Cup winners, the PNG Hunters, 42-18 in the NRL State Championship. The winners of the NSW Cup saw centre Tony Satini race in for four first half tries as Garth Brennan’s side took command. Three late tries for Michael Marum’s outfit flattered them but they did show good discipline throughout the game, completing at 90% in the first half, but the Panthers were able to capitalise on their chances. Prior to Penrith’s victory the all-Sydney contest in the final ever Under 20s game saw Manly bench forward Keith Titmuss cross in the final moments before Tevita Funa converted the winning goal as the eighth-placed side from the regular season won 20-18 over the Parramatta Eels.


On Monday the Koori Knockout at Leichhardt Oval saw wins to the Newcastle Yowies and Redfern All Blacks, respectively, in the men’s and women’s finals. Redfern defeated Dunghutti 12-8 before the Yowies comfortably accounted for Griffith Three Ways United 22-4. The Yowies contained former dual-international Timana Tahu and Bulldog Brenko Lee with Kangaroos forward Andrew Fifita and Robert Lui turning out for Griffith. This tournament comes after the Queensland version, the Murri Rugby League Carnival, held last weekend in Redcliffe with victories to the Brisbane Natives over the Gundalu Gadyu in the women’s final with Torres Strait Island team Dhadhin Geai Warriors (featuring NRL players Travis Waddell and Edrick Lee) putting away the SEQ Indigenous All Stars 48-0 in the men’s decider as featured in this story by Joe Gorman in The Guardian. There is more rugby league to come with some representative teams out of the indigenous carnivals playing New Zealand Maori later this month, next weekend’s Superleague Grand Final between seven-time winners Leeds and Castleford seeking their first title in the home and away competition. This is all before the Rugby League World Cups which start on October 27 for the men and November 16 for the women.


This rugby league wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport


About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.


  1. Tom Riordan says

    Great summary, Hamish.

    As a very casual Storm supporter, I was thrilled for the big three to have such a tremendous swansong.

    The Cowboys had a staggering season when you consider how long they had to cope without JT, and that they were outsiders in each of their three finals wins. Their skipper, Gavin Cooper, delivered a magnificent speech after the game that put Tex Walker’s to shame. Townsville should be very proud.

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