Key stats ahead of the NRL grand final

A snapshot of the five key facts and figures heading into Sunday’s NRL grand final between Melbourne and Cronulla.

* THE PURPLE WALL

We know that defence wins premierships – of the last 10 grand final victors, six have been the best defensive team all year. This bodes well for Craig Bellamy’s side. They lead the competition in all of the major defensive categories, including points conceded (12.5), linebreaks conceded (2.7) and missed tackles (19.5).

* BALL CONTROL

This one will come down to completion rates. No one does it better than the Storm – they completed at 81.9 per cent this year, the only team to boast an average over 80. We know the Sharks have strike all over the park. But can they hold onto the ball long enough to put points on the board against the ultra-disciplined Storm? Shane Flanagan’s team ranked 11th for completions at 76.2 per cent.

* EXPERIENCE

The Sharks side which will run onto ANZ Stadium will be the most experienced side to play a grand final since 1954. Their 17 will have a combined 2742 matches worth of first-grade experience – beating Brisbane’s 2015 grand final side which had 2272 games experience. On the other hand, the Storm have old heads like Cameron Smith who is playing his 30th finals match – the equal fifth most of any player in history. They also have 15 grand finals between them compared to Cronulla’s seven.

* THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE PARADOX

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. The question has stumped philosophers for generations but we might get an answer on Sunday night. The Storm have averaged the most metres of all teams this year with 1508m. While the Sharks have conceded the least metres with 1302m. Who wins?

*PENALTIES

Discipline shapes as the Sharks’ Achilles heel. They have conceded the second most penalties this year – an average of 7.7 per game. It’s an alarming stat considering 40 per cent of the tries they have let in have come in the set following penalties. James Maloney (31) and Michael Ennis (28) have also been the two most heavily penalised players in the competition this year.

Statistics source: Fox Sports Stats

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