2017 NRL Grand Final
|2017NRL Grand Final|
|Date||1 October 2017|
|Location||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
|Clive Churchill Medal||Billy Slater|
|Australian National anthem||Ricki-Lee Coulter|
Nick Beashel (Touch Judge)
Chris Butler (Touch Judge)
The 2017 NRL Grand Final was the conclusive and premiership-deciding game of the 2017 National Rugby League season and was played on Sunday October 1 at Sydney's ANZ Stadium. The match was contested between minor premiers the Melbourne Storm and the eighth-placed North Queensland Cowboys. The Melbourne club won the match 34 – 6 to claim their third premiership title. Melbourne fullback Billy Slater was awarded his second Clive Churchill Medal as the game's official man of the match.
The match was preceded by the 2017 NRL Under-20s Grand Final and the 2017 NRL State Championship. Pre-match entertainment was headlined by American rapper Macklemore, who attracted controversy for his scheduled performance of "Same Love" during the ongoing nationwide postal survey on same-sex marriage. The match was broadcast live throughout Australia by the Nine Network.
|Legend: Win Loss|
This was the third time that a grand final was contested by two non-Sydney/New South Wales based teams, after the 2006 Grand Final (Brisbane defeating Melbourne) and the 2015 Grand Final (North Queensland defeating Brisbane), and the first to feature neither the Brisbane Broncos or a Sydney-based club. The Melbourne Storm qualified for their seventh grand final since 2006, with only coach Craig Bellamy and halfback Cooper Cronk having been involved on each occasion. It was also the first time since 2009 that a side had reached a premiership decider in consecutive seasons, with the Storm having made four straight appearances between 2006-2009. The North Queensland Cowboys made their first grand final appearance since their maiden premiership victory over the Brisbane Broncos in 2015, as well as their third in the club's history. It was the first time since the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2014 that a side reached a grand final from outside the top-four, the first time since the Parramatta Eels in 2009 to reach the grand final from as low as 8th position, and the first club to qualify from 8th under the current final eight system that was implemented in 2012.
Claiming their third minor premiership, the Melbourne Storm finished the regular season on 44 competition points, six points clear of the second placed Sydney Roosters in losing only 4 games from 24 matches. Their points differential of +297 was their highest amount since 2008. With a two-game home ground advantage, they defeated the fourth-placed Parramatta Eels 18–16 to earn a week off and a place in the grand final qualifier, where they would beat the Brisbane Broncos 30–0 to reach a consecutive grand final. North Queensland only made the finals series after the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs defeated the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the final round of the regular season. This result denied St. George Illawarra 8th spot and allowed the North Queensland side into the finals instead. North Queensland made a winning run defeating their next three opponents in the finals, all of whom were Sydney-based clubs. They defeated defending premiers, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 15–14 in extra time at Allianz Stadium, Parramatta 24–16 at ANZ Stadium, and the Roosters 29–16 at Allianz Stadium, making it the first time they have reached a grand final without losing a finals match.
Melbourne and North Queensland have previously played each other in a finals series on three occasions. Their first meeting was in 2005 at, the then named, Aussie Stadium where North Queensland defeated Melbourne 24-16 in the Semi Final. Their second was in 2015, when North Queensland defeated Melbourne 32–12 at Melbourne's AAMI Park to qualify for the Grand Final. Their third meeting was in the 2016 Qualifying Final, when Melbourne defeated North Queensland 16-10 at AAMI Park; Melbourne would earn a week off and finish runners-up that season.
|Position||North Queensland Cowboys|
|Billy Slater||Fullback||Lachlan Coote|
|Suliasi Vunivalu||Wing||Kyle Feldt|
|Will Chambers||Centre||Justin O'Neill|
|Curtis Scott||Centre||Kane Linnett|
|Josh Addo-Carr||Wing||Antonio Winterstein|
|Cameron Munster||Five-eighth||Te Maire Martin|
|Cooper Cronk||Halfback||Michael Morgan|
|Jesse Bromwich||Prop||Shaun Fensom|
|Cameron Smith (c)||Hooker||Jake Granville|
|Jordan McLean||Prop||Scott Bolton|
|Felise Kaufusi||2nd Row||Gavin Cooper (c)|
|Tohu Harris||2nd Row||Ethan Lowe|
|Dale Finucane||Lock||Jason Taumalolo|
|Kenny Bromwich||Interchange||Ben Hampton|
|Tim Glasby||Interchange||Coen Hess|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||Interchange||Corey Jensen|
|Slade Griffin||Interchange||John Asiata|
|Craig Bellamy||Coach||Paul Green|
Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk played in his seventh grand final after having previously featured in every premiership decider his club have reached since 2006. It would also be his last game for the Melbourne side after playing 323 first-grade games for the club. Cronk, Will Chambers, Cameron Smith, Jesse Bromwich, and Billy Slater were the last remaining members of their last premiership winning team in 2012. The North Queensland Cowboys had twelve players from their 2015 Premiership winning side. Co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott are the most notable absentees from their last Grand Final appearance after both suffered long-term injuries during the season, although Scott was named as a reserve for the starting line-up. They were replaced by Te Maire Martin and Scott Bolton (who was promoted to the starting line-up after coming off the bench in 2015) respectively, with Martin being transferred mid-season from the Penrith Panthers to cover the injured representative halfback. North Queensland utility Ben Hampton made a consecutive Grand Final appearance after playing for the Storm in their loss to the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks the preceding year's premiership decider.
|Referees:||Matt Cecchin||Gerard Sutton||Ben Cummins|
|Touch Judges:||Nick Beashel||Chris Butler||Brett Suttor|
|Bunker:||Bernard Sutton||Ben Galea|
Sunday, 1 October
|Melbourne Storm||34 – 6||North Queensland Cowboys|
Addo-Carr (20', 73') 2
Kaufusi (28') 1
Slater (38') 1
Finucane (64') 1
Scott (67') 1
(21', 29', 39', 65', 75')
|1st: 18 – 0
2nd: 16 – 6
1 (48') Martin
1/1 (49') Lowe
It was a tough night for the North Queensland side from the outset when Shaun Fensom was taken out of the game after a freak accident. Fensom tried to prevent a break from Melbourne but was tangled up with teammate Ethan Lowe. His leg was forced sideways and his grand final was over after just three minutes with a suspected broken tibia. After a lengthy stoppage of almost 10 minutes, the Melbourne side looked likely to score first despite some bruising defence from Antonio Winterstein.
The first try came in the 19th minute when Will Chambers pounced on a loose ball 10m from his own line and beat a couple of defenders before offloading to Josh Addo-Carr, who sprinted 75m for the try. Cameron Smith converted and Melbourne lead 6-0. From that point on the Melbourne side went about their business with clinical precision. As usual, it was the kicking game of Cooper Cronk which was on fire, ably supported by his captain Cameron Smith. Cronk forced a dropout with a well-weighted kick and on the resulting play in the 28th minute, Slater drew two defenders and set up Felise Kaufusi who had a clear run to the line and gave Melbourne their second try. Smith converted and Melbourne lead 12-0. It went from bad to worse for North Queensland moments later when Winterstein made an error off a seemingly innocuous Cronk grubber. In a complete team performance, the “Big Three” had their fingerprints all over the execution of the plan and in the 37th minute, Cronk and Smith combined for Slater to slice through past Justin O’Neil for Melbourne's third try. Smith converted and Melbourne lead 18-0. Just before the half time siren, Feldt had set off on a long run after fielding a Cooper Cronk kick. The Melbourne chase reflected the determination of the Melbourne players.
After just one penalty in the opening half, the Melbourne side conceded three in a row early in the second. It gave North Queensland a rare chance at the Melbourne try line and in the 47th minute, Te Maire Martin finally broke through Melbourne's defence to score. It was the first points the Melbourne side had conceded in 140 minutes of finals football. Ethan Lowe converted and the Melbourne side lead 18-6. North Queensland began to build pressure but couldn’t make the most of further sets inside Melbourne's 20.
Melbourne lock Dale Finucane all but put the game to bed in the 64th minute with a barge over try on the back of an assist from Smith. Smith converted and Melbourne lead 24-6. The night was summed up from North Queensland in the 67th minute when Kane Linnett dropped the ball coming out of the defence. Curtis Scott scored a grand final try in his debut season after receiving a pass from Josh Addo-Carr. Smith missed the conversion and Melbourne lead 28-6.
With the game well and truly over, Melbourne turned into the Harlem Globetrotters with Smith, Cronk, Slater and Tohu Harris combining in the 73rd minute for a party-trick to set up Addo-Carr for his second try of the night. Smith converted and Melbourne lead 34-6. It was the icing on the cake for the best team of the season.
Holden Cup NYC Grand Final
Sunday, 1 October
|Parramatta Eels U20s||18 – 20||Manly Warringah Sea Eagles U20s|
Dylan Brown (3') 1
Denzal Tonise (16') 1
Greg Leleisiuao (67') 1
Dylan Brown 3/4
(4', 11' pen, 17')
|1st: 14 – 10
2nd: 4 – 10
1 (29') Tevita Funa
1 (40') Bilal Maarbani
1 (43') Blake Andrews
1 (79') Keith Titmuss
2/4 Tevita Funa
NRL State Championship
Sunday, 1 October
|Penrith Panthers||42 – 18||Papua New Guinea Hunters|
Tony Satini (9', 11', 16', 40') 4
Darren Nicholls (20') 1
Viliame Kikau (31') 1
Christian Crichton (38') 1
Maika Sivo (47') 1
Darren Nicholls 5/8
(13', 17', 22', 34', 39')
Jarome Luai (68')
|1st: 38 – 2
2nd: 4 – 16
1 (69') Adex Wera
1 (72') Bland Abavu
1 (77') Ase Boas
3/4 Ase Boas
(3' pen, 70', 77')
By winning the Grand Final, the Melbourne Storm qualified for the 2018 World Club Challenge against the Super League XXII champions Leeds Rhinos. The match would be staged in Australia for only the fourth time, where the Storm defeated the Rhinos 38–4.
American rapper Macklemore was booked to perform four songs, accompanied by singers Eric Nally and Mary Lambert, including "Same Love". The song topped the Australian charts in 2013, and was regarded as an anthem for same-sex marriage advocates during the campaign in Macklemore's home state of Washington. In the days leading up to the grand final, the single returned to the top of the Australian iTunes charts.
Several prominent conservative politicians voiced strong opposition to the scheduled performance of "Same Love", given its high-profile support for the 'Yes' campaign during the voting period of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott tweeted his disapproval of a "politicised grand final," while North Queensland crossbencher Bob Katter described allowing Macklemore's grand final performance as "tantamount to seeping sewage into the debutante ball." Macklemore acknowledged the controversy several days before the final, but vowed to "go harder" as a result.
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