UPDATE 8:32 PM AEST | THE mighty Melbourne Storm have capped off an extraordinary NRL season and claimed the cup in a blockbuster grand final in front of 79,722 screaming footy fans at ANZ Stadium.
The strong southern Storm proved too powerful for the northern Cowboys in Sunday’s ‘David v Goliath’ battle in Sydney, sealing the deal with a 28 point lead to defeat North Queensland 34-6.
It’s the club’s second premiership in 10 years, after being stripped of their title for the second time in 2009.
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FIRST at 3:00 PM | PUMPED up footy fans are beginning to flood ANZ Stadium ahead of tonight’s blockbuster NRL grand final between Melbourne and North Queensland.
It’s been touted as a David v Goliath battle with the Storm looking to cap off an extraordinary season that saw them finish Minor Premiers by six points, while the Cowboys lost star playmaker Johnathan Thurston through injury before the finals and co-captain Matt Scott after that.
The Townsville boys have so far done what no one thought they could after scraping into the top eight in the final regular season round, thanks to an upset win by the Bulldogs over the Dragons.
They then continued the fight, without their two leaders, week after week.
If the Cowboys claim the trophy tonight, they’ll be the first team in history to take the Premiership from outside the top four.
They are the sentimental favourites.
But then there’s the Storm. The home of the ‘Big Three’; Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
Melbourne is hoping to farewell Cronk on a high with their second club premiership. He may be retiring or linking up with a Sydney club next season.
Those who are hanging up the boots will be presented to the crowd ahead of the game and include Melbourne player Matt White, as well as Ray Thompson and Ben Hannant from the Cowboys.
Former Sharks hooker Michael Ennis is also part of the retiring 15, along with Matt Ballin (Tigers), Feleti Mateo (Manly), David Shillington and Daniel Vidot (Titans).
The fight for the Holden Cup Under 20s will be played out between Parramatta and Manly from 2.35pm (AEST), ahead of the Intrust Super State Championship between Penrith Panthers and PNG Hunters.
At 5.30pm the highly publicised pre-match entertainment will begin, with controversial rapper Macklemore to sing five of his biggest hits.
There had been a petition during the week to stop the Grammy Award-winning artist from singing his 2012 hit Same Love, as those from the ‘No’ campaign in the same-sex marriage survey believe it will politicise the sporting event.
The National Anthem will be sung by Ricki-Lee.