Melbourne star Cooper Cronk has likened this year’s Storm team to their triumphant 2012 NRL outfit – maybe even a little bit better.
The Storm will take on Cronulla in what will be Melbourne’s first grand final since lifting the Provan-Summons trophy with a victory over Canterbury four years ago.
Five players remain from that Melbourne squad, not including injured star Billy Slater, however the 32-year-old Cronk believes this year’s version isn’t too different.
If anything, the Storm halfback reckons they’re a more balanced outfit this time around.
“It’s pretty similar in terms of its playing roster, but we’re also rock solid through our middle defence, we’ve also got some athleticism on the edges,” he said.
“It’s pretty similar to the Cronulla team, to be honest.”
Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Will Chambers, Kevin Proctor and skipper Cameron Smith have formed the nucleus of the Storm side for the best part of half a decade.
However the insertion of Cameron Munster, Suliasi Vunivalu and Marika Koroibete have provided plenty of x-factor, while Blake Green has proved a steady foil for Cronk in the halves.
Jordan McLean, Tohu Harris and Dale Finucane have also enjoyed successful, healthy seasons.
It was less than a month ago when the Storm claimed the minor premiership with a round 26 shellacking of Cronulla, however Cronk denied it would be a mental advantage on Sunday.
The Sharks upset Melbourne in round four, kickstarting a record 15-game winning streak.
“They got us early on in the year so it’s 1-1 in that regard,” Cronk said.
“When it comes down to grand finals, it’s whoever handles the occasion the best, goes out and executes their game plan to the best. They’re normally the ones that come out on top.”
While the Sharks will be playing their first decider in a united competition in almost 40 years, they boast just as much grand final experience as their counterparts.
Ben Barba, James Maloney, Michael Ennis, Matt Prior, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington have all been a part of grand final teams.
Cronk said the Sharks were dangerous down their entire list.
“Mobile, strong forwards, athleticism on the edges, and some smart creative halves,” he said.
“That’s what grand finals are all about, the best players against best players and best teams against best teams. You’ve got to go out there and play very well.”
The Storm will train on Monday and Tuesday before flying to Sydney on Wednesday.