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Purple reign

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Perfect Storm blitz Bulldogs in NRL decider

Melbourne Storm have defeated minor premiers the Cantebury Bulldogs to win the 2012 NRL premiership.

PT0M0S 620 349

IT COULD well be remembered as the NRL grand final when the Bulldogs' bite was worse than their bark. A game in which a single act of ill-discipline overshadowed what was, in the context of their recent history, a moment of incredible triumph for the Storm.

Inevitably, the judiciary will determine if the Bulldogs' English prop James Graham bit the ear of Billy Slater as the pair wrestled outside the touchline. Slater was unequivocal when asked by the referee if he wanted the incident placed on report. "Yeah, f---en oath," Slater said. "He bit me on the ear." The videotape also seemed damning.

Ryan Hoffman scores the first try for the Melbourne Storm. Click for more photos

2012 NRL Grand Final

All the action from the 2012 NRL Grand Final between the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium, Homebush. Photos by Brendan Esposito, Quentin Jones, Dave Tease and Chris Lane. Selected Images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH. Photo: Brendan Esposito

The biting accusation came during a brawl that erupted just after winger Sam Perrett had brilliantly controlled the ball to score Canterbury's first try and, against the overwhelming weight of play, levelled the scores at 4-4. Yet, poetically, Slater – once bitten, but not shy – would score the next try. The Storm scored again soon after. The Bulldogs would not score again. It was 14-4 at half-time, and also when the final hooter sounded.

While the biting controversy cast a pall on the game, it was the relentless pressure of the Storm that did most to silence a crowd of 82,976 that, naturally, heavily favoured the Bulldogs. This was a performance every bit as good as the grand final winning teams of 2007 and 2009. But with the stamp of legitimacy.

You could not call the Storm's victory an act of vindication or revenge. Convincingly, the survivors of Melbourne's years of salary cap disgrace have argued they were not motivated by the past. Their team contained many new faces. Victory was symbolic of the club's ability to move on, not the venomous act of brooding men stuck in the past.

Storming home ... Melbourne fullback Billy Slater embraces teammate Todd Lowrie after the team's 14-4 victory at ANZ Stadium yesterday.

Storming home ... Melbourne fullback Billy Slater embraces teammate Todd Lowrie after the team's 14-4 victory at ANZ Stadium yesterday. Photo: David Tease

Yet, when the Storm return to their home town and put one trophy back in their ransacked cabinet, the feeling will be sweet. Memories of the 2010 season in which they played without meaningful incentive – constantly suffering the taunts of opposition supporters – will surely come to the surface.

Inevitably, the Storm's big three – Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – were instrumental. Slater's defiant try set the tone. Minutes later, Cronk floated a perfect pass across the ruck for Justin O'Neill to score, and won the Clive Churchill Medal as best player. Smith was, as ever, inspirational, constantly sooling his team forward. Only a case of goal-kicking yips – Smith kicked just one goal from five attempts – marred the captain's performance. Coincidentally, Smith is a friend of Hawthorn star Lance "Buddy" Franklin, whose own goal-kicking problems had contributed to the Swans' victory in the AFL grand final on Saturday.

Yet, even when the Bulldogs finally began to attack the Melbourne line, the Storm seldom looked like suffering the same fate. They almost brought the match to the perfect conclusion when forward Bryan Norrie went over the line. Norrie was about to take the job of captain-coach of Wagga Wagga when he received a phone call from the Storm. He is symbolic of the manner in which the club has rebuilt its list from the bargain basement. However, the fairytale ending was overruled with Norrie fractionally ahead of the kicker.

Incident to be placed on report ... a screen grab of the alleged biting incident involving Bulldog James Graham.

Incident to be placed on report ... a screen grab of the alleged biting incident involving Bulldog James Graham. Photo: Channel Nine

For Canterbury-Bankstown, the nature of their performance will be almost as disappointing as the result itself. Throughout the season, they had been highly organised, efficient and disciplined under new coach, Des Hasler. Yet, almost from the outset, they were a Dogs breakfast. Too many penalties conceded. Too little possession retained.

Perhaps the most telling moment came early in the first half when Dally M medallist Ben Barba completely missed a high ball. Whether it was nerves, inexperience or the pressure of a masterful opponent, the Bulldogs were outclassed and overawed.

19 comments

  • Dogs tried to play dirty rough house footy and they failed, it was a bad error from Hasler and doomed to fail against a team like the Storm who have every right to be compared to the 80's Parramatta team and the Raiders and Broncos sides of the 90's. Melbourne storm (IMHO) deserve every one of their titles.

    Commenter
    Soot
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    October 01, 2012, 2:49AM
    • not they don't deserve every one of them. only this one they do.

      Commenter
      rich
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 12:03PM
  • Storm were always going to win. They received every 50/50 call through the finals series. Storm were allowed to slow down the ruck with wrestling tactics but every other team were penalised for slowing the play the ball. The NRL are still determined to kick everybody else in the guts to claim to have a succsesful team in Melbourne to the detriment of the game elsewhere.

    Commenter
    John Good
    Date and time
    October 01, 2012, 7:03AM
    • The best way for the NRL to boost the image of the Storm would have been to pressure Schubert and his crew to ignore the salary cap rorts.

      Commenter
      shevek
      Location
      bondi
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 3:13PM
    • I agree, Storm just seem to get away with a lot more around the play the ball, which allows their defence to gain the forward momentum. It makes a huge difference.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 5:26PM
  • Well done to Cam Smith and his team. I can't say enough about that wonderful man and coach that guides this team Craig Bellamy. What an inspiration this man is. Most people would have taken the easy road out after the salary cap fiasco. Not his man,he took it personally and set about rectifying the wrongs. Not only that he has done it with shrewd selections at the trade table,a hard work ethic,and a love for each and everyone of his players,who obviously respond in kind. Normally teams must bottom out,that's the way of the NRL world these days,those that rise,must eventually fall. Bellamy defies this and makes his players believe in him and his game plan,what a record,what a super effort and in finishing,has their ever been a better ,more awarded player in NRL history than the great billy slater. This bloke has done it all,and starred in it all,you name it,premiers,origin records,world cups,medals,etc he has them all and to see him doing his magic,on me leg for the last 7 weeks will be folklore in future years. Melbourne storm,cam and boys,billy the kid,and bellyache you make us all proud and we love you for it,we are so lucky to have you as the leaders of the mightiest club in the NRL.

    Commenter
    Johnny
    Location
    South Morang
    Date and time
    October 01, 2012, 7:45AM
    • The heading to this story is the BEST PUN EVER!!!

      Commenter
      Ipadelicious
      Location
      Central Coast
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 8:39AM
      • Bulldogs played in their characteristic un-sportsmanlike style and they got what they deserved.

        Pushing one of the Storm guys over for no reason just after the Dogs try.. says it all really!

        Even though I'd like to see a Sydney team win, Storm were upstanding and brought everything they had to the game. They are much more organic and imaginative than Bulldogs who were mechanical and uninspired.

        For example, when the Dogs have their 5th within the 20m line they ALWAYS kick diagonally. Storm know this and it's a simple matter of having an extra mark or two over that side to prevent a try.

        Commenter
        Andi
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        October 01, 2012, 12:06PM
        • Don't think their was unsportsmanship like behaviour except from one player, James Graham which is unacceptable. The rest of the team can hold their heads high, I guess all the people who are knocking the Bulldogs are upset because their team bombed out and couldn't make it near the grand final! Maybe Andi should be a little better educated in what he says, the only part he got right is that yes the Storm did play an outstanding game.

          Commenter
          Kathy
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          October 01, 2012, 4:36PM
      • Great leadership and team spirit are a winning combination. Billy Slater will become an immortal of the game with his natural skills and freakish ability.

        Commenter
        Chop Chop
        Date and time
        October 01, 2012, 12:18PM

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