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Roosters v Storm: Cronk to play, Slater primed for farewell

They have each hit form at the right end of the season, they finished in the top two rungs of the ladder, they are undefeated in the finals this season but the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have had disrupted preparations for Sunday's grand final.

After a week of doubt, Cooper Cronk will start the match at halfback in jersey No.23. The recuperative powers of Cronk were put to the test after the star halfback suffered rotator cuff damage in the preliminary final win over the Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium.

It is understood he had a pain-killing injection before he tested it out with tackle drills at training on Saturday.

Melbourne also faced an uncertain build-up, due to the judiciary, but retiring fullback Billy Slater proved his innocence over a shoulder charge on Sharks winger Sosaia Feki at his hearing on Tuesday night and will play one last game in the Storm No.1 jersey.

The Roosters' defence was superb in their 12-4 triumph over Souths on Saturday night with the home side continually repelling Rabbitohs attacking raids in front of a full house at the soon-to-be-rebuilt Moore Park venue.

Roosters v Storm - Grand Final

Melbourne were characteristically clinical in their 22-6 dismantling of Cronulla on Friday night with Slater superb in a two-try performance in his final outing at AAMI Park.

They are trying to become the first team to defend their premiership since the Brisbane Broncos did so in 1993.

Roosters: Star Sydney Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk will start in Sunday night's NRL grand final despite suffering a shoulder injury in last week's win over South Sydney. Cronk had been racing the clock to be fit for the decider against his former club the Melbourne Storm, and after being included by coach Trent Robinson on an extended bench in Tuesday's team list he'll take the field in jersey 23. His inclusion means Isaac Liu drops to the bench, with Paul Momirovski dropping out of the side. Lindsay Collins drops off the extended bench. 

Storm: The Melbourne Storm will run out as named on Tuesday, 1-17, with Ryan Hoffman and Jahrome Hughes dropping out of their 19-man squad. 

Key match-up: Latrell Mitchell v Will Chambers. The Roosters' left centre will lock horns with Melbourne's veteran in a battle which could well decide the trophy. Mitchell has been one of the biggest improvers in the NRL this season, making the rise to the NSW team at State of Origin level in fine style and he is tipped to partner Greg Inglis in the centres when the Kangaroos play their two Tests next month. Chambers has been an incumbent Kangaroos centre in recent years and could hop back ahead of his younger rival if he comes out on top on grand final night.

For the Roosters to win: Their defence will look after itself but can they get enough points on the board. Twelve points via three unconverted tries was enough against South Sydney but the Storm have more attacking weapons than the Rabbitohs so the Tricolours cannot afford to play too conservatively at ANZ Stadium.

For the Storm to win: Cameron Munster needs to reinforce his status as a big-match player. He first made a name for himself at fullback in 2016 when Billy Slater was injured and was one of the Storm's best in their grand final loss to Cronulla. He excelled last year to earn Queensland and Australian honours and has been one of the best players in the Telstra Premiership this season. If he fires, the Storm are a great chance of conquering the Roosters.

Match Highlights: Storm v Sharks - Finals Week 3; 2018

Roosters Stat Attack: Blake Ferguson is averaging 197.9 running metres per game this season. While the big winger has a habit of coming up with the odd error, he has been phenomenal at doing the hard yards for the Tricolours on kick returns and the first few hit-ups to start the team's set. He infamously said he was leaving Cronulla for Canberra because he thought it would lead to a premiership. The Eels-bound veteran has a chance to collect a first premiership ring this Sunday. 

Storm Stat Attack: Cameron Smith will add yet another record to his collection on Sunday when he breaks Darren Lockyer's record of 35 finals appearances. The evergreen hooker bettered his own record for most points in a season when he kicked five goals last Friday against Cronulla to make it 198 for 2018.

And another thing: These teams have faced each other only once this season - a 9-8 victory to the Storm at the Adelaide Oval in round 16. A predictable arm-wrestle, it was 2-2 at half-time and wasn't decided until Cameron Smith's clutch field goal two minutes from full-time. 

Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 35; Storm 20 wins, Roosters 15 wins

Previous result: Storm won 9-8 at Adelaide Oval in round 16
Points per game (regular season): 
Roosters 22.6 (4th); Storm 22.3 (5th)
Points conceded per game (regular season): 
Roosters 15 (1st); Storm 15.1 (2nd)
Televised: 
Live on Nine, Fox League

 

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Match Highlights: Roosters v Storm - Round 16, 2018