NRL Grand Final: Can Melbourne Storm add a third premiership to decade of dominance?

By Sports Desk October 21, 2020

Melbourne Storm's era of dominance has so far yielded two premierships, and they get another chance against Penrith Panthers on Sunday.

Led incredibly by head coach Craig Bellamy and captain Cameron Smith, Melbourne are in their fourth Grand Final in five years.

And their efforts so far in 2020 have been made even more special by the fact they left Victoria on June 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have been away from home ever since.

The Storm are three-time NRL premiers, having had titles in 2007 and 2009 stripped following salary cap breaches.

But they have bounced back from that scandal and, with the help of Opta, we take a look at their dominance.

An astounding win rate

Melbourne were handed their salary cap punishment in 2010, and in that season were deducted points and barred from earning any for the campaign.

But since 2011, the Storm have incredibly won 186 of 260 NRL games, at a win rate of 71.5 per cent. The next best? Sydney Roosters – at 59.6 per cent.

That is 10 years of dominance, although it has included just two premierships – in 2012 and 2017. Melbourne have finished as minor premiers in four of those seasons.

In that period, the Storm have a for/against differential of plus-2,288. That is close to double of the Roosters (plus-1,290).

Finals dip

For all their dominance in the home-and-away seasons, Melbourne's win rate in finals since 2011 is 62.5 – which ranks below the Roosters (63.2). Bellamy's men have played in the most (24) in that period, but have been unable to capitalise regularly in the postseason. Interestingly, the Storm average fewer points against in the finals since 2011 (14.1 to 14.5), but their points for drop from 23.3 to 19.4.

Since 2011, six different teams have won an NRL premiership, with the Roosters claiming three crowns.

Only Wayne Bennett (34) has more finals wins as coach than Bellamy (26), as the latter aims for a third premiership.

The Storm face a huge test against the Panthers at ANZ Stadium, but another premiership would further emphasise a decade of dominance.

2020 NRL Grand Final Opta facts

- Penrith have won two of their past three NRL games against the Storm (L1) and will be on the hunt for back-to-back wins against them for the first time since 2005. This will be their first ever meeting in the finals.

- The Panthers have won each of their past two NRL Grand Finals (1991, 2003), after defeat in their maiden Grand Final berth in 1990. The Storm have won only one of their past three Grand Finals despite winning the second half in all three.

- Penrith have won their past five NRL games at ANZ Stadium by an average margin of 14 points per game, as many as they had won in their 21 games at the venue prior (W5, L16).

- No team has appeared in (nine) or won (five) more Grand Finals in the NRL era (1998-) than the Storm, while only Gold Coast Titans (0) had competed in fewer than the Panthers (one) prior to this campaign.

- Melbourne have made 12 successful intercepts in the 2020 NRL campaign, the second-most of any team in the competition behind South Sydney Rabbitohs (16).

- The Penrith Panthers have scored 24 tries on the back of a penalty this NRL campaign – the second-most of any team in the competition – while only the Broncos (122) have conceded more penalties than the Storm (119) this season.

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    Fifth-round draft pick Darnell Mooney looked a steal as he registered 61 catches in 631 yards in support of Allen Robinson, who passed 100 catches (102) for the first time in his NFL career.

    But generally this was an offense lacking dynamism despite the past success of Nagy offenses.

    Aside from their passing problems, more could have been expected from the rushing game and a once dominant offensive line.

    Running back David Montgomery had the fourth-most rushing attempts in the NFL (247) but just the 14th-most rushes of 10+ yards (24) and the 46th highest yards per carry (4.33) average.

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    He also had 11 broken tackles, breaking a tackle on 4.4 per cent of plays (the 15th highest percentage in the league), though he did add 54 catches through the air. 

    As a team, the 40 rushes of 10+ yards was only 25th in the league, so not much was working on this side of the ball.

    Defense

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    They ranked 11th in yardage (344.9), 14th in points allowed (23.1) and 12th in scoring efficiency, allowing 68 scoring drives out of 179.

    Opponents tallied 5.41 yards per play (11th), while 18 takeaways put them in a tie for 15th, so they were in the top half of the league in all key metrics.

    A sack total of 35, though, was 17th in the NFL.

    Khalil Mack posted below 10 sacks (9.0) and 15 QB hits (13) for a second straight year, having not done so in either category in four years between 2015 and 2018.

    But that is a reflection of the Bears front seven looking like it needs an infusion of youth, rather than an alarming drop off from Mack. Robert Quinn (2.0 sacks, 6 QB hits) had a quiet year rushing the passer opposite Mack.

    The secondary, led by Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, allowed 10 big play TDs (tied for 14th) and 59 total big plays (16th).

    Offseason

    Trubisky is out of contract and a return has not been ruled out, while Foles has two years left. But if either of those players are starting at QB then it is hard to see the Bears challenging.

    Potential trade options Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have already found new teams. With the Bears picking in the bottom half of the draft and the cupboard relatively bare in terms of remaining free agent options, Pace is going to have to pull something special out of the bag at QB.

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    "For now, we think only of the Bordeaux game as if it were the last. I think thinking like that will help us achieve the goal of winning.

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    It was a memorable season for the Green Bay Packers, but one that ultimately ended similarly to the last.

    The Packers went down to a frustrating NFC Championship Game defeat to eventual champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one year on from losing at the same stage to the San Francisco 49ers.

    In between those events, Aaron Rodgers put together a sensational season to be named NFL MVP for the third time.

    Rodgers responded perfectly to the Packers trading up and drafting his potential replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round of the 2020 draft, puzzlingly eschewing the help at wide receiver he appeared to need.

    Consecutive 13-3 seasons under Matt LaFleur are to be applauded.

    But one Super Bowl ring seems an unfair return for a quarterback of Rodgers’ quality, so it is time for the Packers front office to do more to get him over the hump as his career enters its latter years.

    We have used Stats Perform data to scrutinise how they might go about doing it on the evidence of their 2020 campaign.

    Offense

    Led by a remarkable season from Rodgers, who threw for a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions, the Green Bay offense was rolling.

    There were calls ahead of the season for further receiving threats to be brought in to complement number one option Davante Adams.

    While those did not arrive, passing to the first-team All-Pro was a cheat code in 2020, with Adams racking up 115 catches, 1,374 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns in 14 regular season games.

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    Defense

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    Offseason

    Green Bay are not flush with cash as they enter the offseason around $4.5million over the estimated cap ($185m).

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    Retaining or replacing one of the NFL's top centers, Corey Linsley, is a key priority.

    Both running backs, Jones and Jamaal Williams, are also poised to hit the market, so it may be difficult to retain both of them, especially if they want to justify drafting AJ Dillon in round two a year ago. He only played 97 offensive snaps in the regular season.

    King did his free agency hopes few favours in the playoffs, while offensive line may be an area of focus after the departure of tackle Rick Wagner, who played in every game and started nine.

    In terms of incomings, with limited funds Green Bay will need to pick their spots but will know a star veteran could make all the difference.

    With Rodgers in fine fettle and with LaFleur overseeing a team proven to be contenders, you can expect them to be connected with any high-profile free agents who hit the open market.

    That has already been the case with recently released Houston Texans icon J. J. Watt, who ultimately joined the Arizona Cardinals.

    After his heroics last year, Pack fans will think any impactful signings the front office can make will be a deserving reward for Rodgers, who is back at the top of his game.

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