NRL finalists Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers dominated the State of Origin squads as the selections were confirmed on Sunday.

Ryan Papenhuyzen capped a wonderful season with a man of the match display in Sunday's final, as the Storm saw off Penrith 26-20.

The full-back is one of seven Melbourne players who will feature in the Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, with the final additions having been revealed.

Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr will deputise in the NSW camp, while their Storm team-mates Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster will link up with Queensland's squad.

Six Penrith players will also take part, with Kurt Capewell named in the Maroons squad and Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo selected for New South Wales.

Papenhuyzen may not get in ahead of James Tedesco – who was the player of the series in 2019 – for the Blues, though Storm coach Craig Bellamy is sure the youngster can have a big impact on the squad.

"[Papenhuyzen] has really matured this year, I'm sure he'd be the first one to say he's had a lot of help off Billy [Slater] and he's been very grateful for that," Bellamy said. 

"He can play a few other places and he's tough as nails and he'll give you some X-factor for a couple of other positions as well so I'm sure Freddie will be looking at him pretty hard to play on the bench."

The three-match State of Origin series will take place throughout November. The Blues are the defending champions.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy has hailed his side's NRL Grand Final win over Penrith Panthers as the most meaningful of his career. 

Melbourne ultimately triumphed 26-20 at ANZ Stadium after earlier racing into a 26-0 lead to secure the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Bellamy's squad had been forced to base themselves at a Sunshine Coast resort from late June onwards after coronavirus cases spiked in Victoria, with some families uprooting and joining them. 

The side wore a 'V' on their jerseys in tribute to their home state and an emotional Bellamy was quick to praise his players' response to such challenging circumstances. 

"It's been difficult, it's been challenging, it's been different," Bellamy said.

"Even today, well, for me, it didn't really feel like a Grand Final because usually we come down three or four days before. We have fan days at home during the week and we didn't really have that the whole week.

"For what our guys have been through, what their families have been through, I probably would put it up at the top of the Grand Final wins that we've had.

"This year, there's been some circumstances and situations where I thought some of the guys might have wanted to pack up and go home.

"Especially the ones there that haven't had their families in the bubble. But they haven't, they all stuck there through some difficult circumstances at times. And the other big thing has been the support of the families.

"Hardly have they complained about anything and living in that bubble, away from home, has been difficult. That's what it was all about for us - the group with their families and playing for the people in Victoria.

"We got some real strength out of that."

 

Cameron Smith was relieved to cling on for victory in the NRL Grand Final, admitting Melbourne Storm "did it the hard way" after surviving a late rally from the Penrith Panthers.

Melbourne appeared on course for a comfortable triumph at ANZ Stadium when they led 26-0 early in the second half, but ending up hanging on for a 26-20 win.

Penrith scored four tries to come charging back into a contest that saw their opponents finish with 11 men, Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith both sent to the sin-bin in a dramatic conclusion.

However, Melbourne survived a desperation final play from the Panthers to prevail, securing the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Smith was full of praise for Penrith, not just for their late rally but also a 2020 season that saw them win 17 games in a row heading into Sunday's clash, while also spoke of his pride for a Storm squad forced to leave Victoria due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We did it the hard way, 11 men in the end," Melbourne's captain, who scored one of his team's four tries, said in a post-game interview during which he refused to be drawn on whether he plans to prolong his career.

"Penrith were coming home with a wet sail and playing the footy that they've played all year, which has been terrific.

"As an opposition club and organisation, we've admired what Penrith have done. To win 17 in a row in this competition is a special effort, on top of what everyone has been through this year.

"If there was another couple of minutes on the clock, who knows what would have happened there. You've got to give credit to Penrith, they fought to the end.

"But I'm just proud of this football team, not just the ones that played tonight but the entire squad. We haven't been home for about five months and with the conditions that we've been under, it's a remarkable effort to be here tonight and get a victory."

A COVID-19 outbreak denied Melbourne home comforts, but Smith revealed overcoming adversity had created a bond within the group that will forever remain strong.

Justin Olam, Suliasi Vunivalu and Ryan Papenhuyzen also touched down for Craig Bellamy's side in the final, while their talismanic skipper booted 10 points.

"We've had some close-knit teams during my time with the club, but given the situation we've been here, pretty much living in each others' pockets for five months, it's something very different, something we've never experienced," Smith added.

"We grew as a unit this year and there are connections in this team now that we will have for the rest of our lives."

Cameron Smith played a starring role before Melbourne Storm survived a second-half fightback to beat Penrith Panthers 26-20 in a pulsating NRL Grand Final. 

Hooker Smith - potentially playing his final game - scored a try and also kicked 10 points to help Melbourne overcome the team who finished above them in the table.

Penrith had triumphed when the teams met in the regular season on their way to being crowned minor premiers, yet a first title since 2003 proved out of their reach as they were made to pay for costly errors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

Melbourne capitalised in clinical fashion, opening up a commanding 22-0 lead at the break that, despite the Panthers trying to claw their way back in the closing stages, set up the victory.

Justin Olam was awarded a penalty try after the ball was kicked out of his grasp in the process of trying to ground it over the line, while the Panthers' poor discipline allowed Smith to kick his team into a double-digit advantage. 

After Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted a looping Nathan Cleary pass and raced clear to score a second try, Smith collected a loose ball and darted over from close range just prior to the interval. 

When man of the match Ryan Papenhuyzen broke free from inside Melbourne's own half to cross early in the second half, the game appeared to over as a contest.

However, having seen two tries chalked off in the first half, Penrith finally opened their account when Brian To'o finished in the corner, the score awarded despite suggestions of obstruction in the build-up. 

Stephen Crichton added another try and when Josh Mansour raced through on the Panthers' left less than four minutes later, a miraculous comeback suddenly seemed a serious possibility. 

Yet the deficit was too much with the clock against them and Melbourne held on, even with Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith finishing the game in the sin-bin.

Cleary barged through as the Storm's 11 men were breached again in the final minute, though it was a mere consolation effort as Craig Bellamy's side sealed a fourth premiership in the NRL era.

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.

Melbourne Storm booked a place in the NRL Grand Final for the fourth time in five years with a resounding 30-10 victory over Canberra Raiders on Friday.

A three-try blitz inside the opening 10 minutes put the Storm en route to a showdown with Penrith Panthers or South Sydney Rabbitohs, as the Raiders missed out on an immediate return to the showpiece following their 2019 defeat to the Sydney Roosters.

Jesse Bromwich powered in for the first score of the game for Craig Bellamy's side, and Ryan Papenhuyzen followed it up by finishing off a wonderful team move ahead of an excellent solo effort from Suliasi Vunivalu.

Cameron Smith, who is expected to retire following his Grand Final outing next weekend, added a penalty before converting Justin Olam's try, which was scored after Nick Cotric failed to bat Papenhuyzen's grubber out of the in-goal area, to put the Storm 24-0 up after 25 minutes.

Cotric got the Raiders on the board before half-time but they were unable to significantly build on that and Dale Finucane marked his 200th NRL appearance by effectively ending the contest when he span over after the hour mark.

Smith produced an excellent tackle to stop Cotric short of the try line, but the Canberra wing doubled his tally with eight minutes remaining, yet there was no hope of keeping their season alive.

Melbourne Storm marked their 50th NRL finals match with an impressive 36-24 defeat of Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium.

With a 61 per cent win rate from their previous 49 such games, Melbourne were firm favourites to triumph on Saturday as they became the first team to reach a half-century of finals games in the NRL era.

They were made to work by the Eels, though, the visitors scoring two tries in the first 22 minutes through Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson.

Storm had 61 per cent of the ball in the first half but did not get points on the board until the half-hour mark, when Suliasi Vunivalu went over.

The excellent Ryan Papenhuyzen struck before the interval to level the scores at 12-12, before Josh Addo-Carr's try put them ahead.

Blake Ferguson made it 18 each, touching down from a clever Reed Mahoney kick, but Melbourne promptly seized control as Jesse Bromwich, Brenko Lee and Papenhuyzen all scored in the space of seven minutes to secure a sixth-straight preliminary final.

Shaun Lane got a late consolation as each side now look for good news on the injury front, with Cameron Munster hurting his right knee and the Eels, who face an elimination game next week, losing Ferguson and Maika Sivo.

Canberra Raiders survived a real scare against Cronulla Sharks before surging back to win 32-20 and avoid a shock elimination.

Canberra were firm favourites after dispatching the Sharks 38-28 a week ago but were second best in the first 40 minutes.

The Sharks, the first team in 25 years to reach the finals without a win over a top-eight opponent, were 14-10 to the good at half-time and could have had a more comfortable lead.

Tries from Ronaldo Mulitano and Blayke Brailey, combined with two penalties and a conversion from the boot of Chad Townsend, had Cronulla in a commanding position only for George Williams to intercept and sprint for the line with just two minutes of the half left.

Apparently galvanised, the Raiders assumed control in the second half, Jack Wighton scoring twice in three minutes before further tries from Williams and Elliott Whitehead, whose earlier fumble had allowed Brailey to touch down, ended the contest and set up a rematch with last year's Grand Final victors Sydney Roosters next week.

Sione Katoa's late interception and 90-metre sprint for the line reduced the deficit, but the Sharks' season is over.

An inexperienced Melbourne Storm were downed by a resurgent St George Illawarra Dragons, while Adam Blair said farewell in a classy win for the New Zealand Warriors in Sunday's NRL action.

The Storm had just 547 NRL appearances within the team, the second least in the competition's history, but Paul Momirovski, Sandor Earl, Chris Lewis and Isaac Lumelume all crossed as they led 16-12 at the break at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

However, Zac Lomax, who kicked all five conversions, started the comeback just before the hour with Matthew Dufty quickly going over as well.

Nicho Hynes converted his own score to bring the Storm back into the game, only for Tyson Frizell's late try to earn a 30-22 win for the Dragons.

The defeat does not alter Melbourne's place on the ladder or their Finals fate, but Max King and Tui Kamikamica face potential disciplinary action - the former for a 'hip-drop' tackle on Blake Lawrie and the latter for a late hit on Jayden Sullivan.

The Warriors finish their campaign in 10th after defeating the Manly Sea Eagles 40-28 in Blair's final appearance after 331 NRL matches.

In a high-scoring affair, Adam Keighran finished with a hat-trick, while Patrick Herbert and Eliesa Katoa also scored for the Warriors, who saw Kodi Nikorima put them on the board after they had fallen behind 10-0 after seven minutes at Central Coast Stadium.

Craig Bellamy offered a cheeky response to Cameron Smith going beyond his career try total as Melbourne Storm wrapped up another top-two NRL finish with a 50-22 rout of Wests Tigers.

Smith scored one of nine Storm tries - the 47th of his career - to take him beyond Bellamy's haul from his playing days with Canberra Raiders, a fact he was keen to remind his Melbourne coach of when dotting down in the 71st minute.

Bellamy responded by flipping the bird back in the direction of his Storm players as they pointed up to their coach, who saw Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr cross for two tries apiece as Melbourne sealed a top-two finish for the fifth successive year.

"The only thing I can feel okay about is it took him 428 games to get there and I got mine in about 140 or something, 150," Bellamy said of Smith afterwards.

Cronulla Sharks had a night to forget as they suffered a 34-18 loss to Sydney Roosters, and lost star playmaker Shaun Johnson to a suspected Achilles injury.

The Sharks are already assured of a finals berth but the absence of Johnson - who has provided an NRL-best 22 try assists - would be a monumental blow.

Mitchell Aubusson marked becoming the Roosters' all-time leader in appearances by scoring a brace of tries on his 303rd outing for Sydney.

Gold Coast Titans' good form continued as they beat Manly Sea Eagles 42-24 for a fourth successive victory, though that game was also overshadowed by a shoulder injury to Tom Trbojevic.

The Manly fullback was only making his return from three months out with a hamstring injury and is now a doubt for the State of Origin series.

 

Toby Rudolf's barnstorming late try dramatically helped to seal an NRL Finals berth for Cronulla Sharks and ended New Zealand Warriors' own chances in a Sunday thriller.

The Warriors had confounded the critics to challenge for a top-eight finish this season, and converted tries from Jack Murchie and Adam Pompey had seen them into a 14-12 lead with seven minutes remaining.

But with the clock ticking down, Rudolf barrelled through the Warriors defence to end their resistance, and Ronaldo Mulitalo's score in the corner in the closing stages completed a 22-14 triumph.

Consequently, the eighth-placed Sharks – thrashed 38-10 by the Newcastle Knights last week – are six points clear of a trio of teams with only two regular-season matches remaining.

The Warriors had responded to tries from Sione Katoa and Mulitalo in the opening half-hour, with Chanel Harris-Tavita's accurate boot aiding their cause, but Cronulla ultimately found a way at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

Melbourne Storm all but booked a crucial top-two finish as Cameron Munster celebrated his 26th birthday with two tries in a 36-20 triumph over the North Queensland Cowboys.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Josh Addo-Carr and Jahrome Hughes also scored in a six-try showing as the Storm made it 11 straight wins over the Cowboys.

The Storm would have to lose each of their remaining two regular-season games to miss out on the top-two slot that would allow them to play two finals at Suncorp Stadium.

Melbourne Storm finished strongly to overpower the South Sydney Rabbitohs 22-16 in a high-quality NRL contest at ANZ Stadium.

With a little over 20 minutes of Friday's contest remaining, Storm trailed 16-10 before Tino Faasuamaleaui finished from close range after fine work from Cameron Smith.

Cameron Munster then showed great skill to go over and put Storm ahead for the first time in the match with 15 minutes remaining, a lead they would not relinquish.

The Bunnies had led by four points at the break with converted efforts from Campbell Graham and Cody Walker answered by Ryan Papenhuyzen and Justin Olam for Storm.

Adam Reynolds kicked eight points, but the Rabbitohs were unable to prevent second-placed Melbourne from reducing Penrith Panthers' lead at the summit to three points. 

In Friday's other contest, Chad Townsend was sent off and three other Cronulla Sharks players were put on report and such a lack of discipline proved costly in a 38-10 thumping at the hands of Newcastle Knights, for who Kalyn Ponga scored a hat-trick.

Townsend saw red for a shoulder charge on Ponga 12 minutes into the second half, while Wade Graham, Toby Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele were cited for lifting tackles.

Starford To'a scored twice, while Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Josh King also dotted down in a resounding seven-try victory Newcastle, who hop ahead of the Bunnies into sixth.

An emphatic NRL victory for Melbourne Storm was marred by a suspected ACL rupture for centre Marion Seve.

Melbourne cruised to a 30-6 triumph over Manly Sea Eagles at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday, scoring six tries and 24 unanswered points to all but end their opponents' finals hopes.

But the joy of victory was tempered as Seve was pummelled by Tevita Funa after an early line break, with his team later confirming that his knee injury was thought to be to his ACL.

Prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona also suffered a calf problem in a contest that saw Justin Olam score a hat-trick for Storm.

Josh Addo-Carr added a double and Asofa-Solomona dotted down for the side sitting second in the NRL ladder, with fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen providing three assists and Jesse Bromwich impressing at prop.

Addin Fonua-Blake scored the Sea Eagles' only try after 14 minutes but they were unable to add to that and now sit six points behind Cronulla Sharks in eighth with just four rounds remaining.

In the other game, Canberra Raiders overcame a scare to boost their hopes of a top-four finish by wiping out an eight-point half-time deficit against Canterbury Bulldogs in an entertaining encounter that produced 10 tries.

A 34-20 home success saw Jack Wighton and Tom Starling score two tries apiece, with the Bulldogs, who remain bottom of the standings, held scoreless in the second half.

Wighton produced two superb runs to finish from close range early in the second half after Starling had been sin-binned, turning the match and giving his side a sixth win from seven.

Melbourne Storm were kept off the scoresheet for just the sixth time in their 23-year history as they lost 14-0 to Parramatta Eels on Thursday. 

The NRL's top two defensive sides gave little quarter at Bankwest Stadium but tries from Waqa Blake and Maika Sivo and the boot of Mitchell Moses were enough to down a depleted Storm side. 

Blake went over from Ryan Matterson's offload to add to Moses' earlier penalty that had put the Eels ahead, and Sivo's 12th try of the season made it 12-0 before the interval. 

Storm lost Ryley Jacks to a hip injury and Nelson Asofa-Solomona to the sin bin, with Moses adding two more points from the resulting penalty. 

Brandon Smith was also hurt in the closing stages as a weakened Storm offered little hope of a comeback, ending a game scoreless for the first time since 2014. 

They stay second to Penrith Panthers in the standings, with the Eels now level on points in third.

Justin Olam scored a pair of tries as Melbourne Storm defeated defending premiers Sydney Roosters 24-6 to move to the top of the NRL standings.

Olam's double came sandwiched between scores from the excellent Jahrome Hughes and Felise Kaufusi, with Ryan Papenhuyzen adding three successful conversions and a penalty.

The Storm led inside the opening 10 minutes, with Olam then further compounding the home side's misery before Papenhuyzen saw a try ruled out.

Having lost Lachlan Lam and Mitch Aubusson to ankle and wrist injuries respectively, the Roosters were dealt a further blow when star man Luke Keary was forced off with a rib problem.

An ambulance had to be called for Keary, with Sydney fearing the hit to his ribs may have caused internal injury.

There was some consolation for Sydney, as Christian Tuipulotu dived over in the corner for a debut try, but the Storm never looked in danger of letting their lead slip away as they eased to an eighth straight win.

The Penrith Panthers matched a club record with an eighth straight win as they showed why they belong at the top of the NRL table.

A 28-12 win over the Canberra Raiders on Saturday came thanks to tries from Viliame Kikau, Liam Martin, the prolific Stephen Crichton and Brent Naden that all arrived before half-time.

Canberra trailed 24-0 at the break but cut their deficit after the break thanks to a double from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; however, Nathan Cleary's kicking for the Panthers kept them at arm's length.

The Panthers first won eight in a row in the 2003 season, when they went on to win the Grand Final.

The Melbourne Storm had briefly nudged ahead of the Panthers with a 41-10 success against the Canterbury Bulldogs earlier in the day, with Josh Addo-Carr and Kenneath Bromwich both dotting down twice.

Nicho Hynes, Justin Olam and Suliasi Vunivalu also poached tries, with the Storm having posted 22 points in their onslaught before the Bulldogs, who sit at the foot of the ladder, troubled the scoreboard.

The only setback for the Storm was a knee injury sustained by Cameron Munster that could see him miss several weeks of action.

The Storm were not the day's biggest winners, with that honour going to the Newcastle Knights who thumped Wests Tigers 44-4 to climb to sixth place.

Kalyn Ponga grabbed two tries and booted 12 points in a lively display, with Hymel Hunt, Starford To'a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese'ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phoenix Crossland also scoring.

Veteran Blake Green made a bright Knights debut after joining in midweek from the New Zealand Warriors, feeding Ponga for the opening try in the ninth minute and winning praise from half-back partner and captain Mitchell Pearce.

"What a super player Greenie is and what a great pick-up for us," Pearce said, quoted on the NRL website. "In the short time I've met him you can tell what a good guy he is.

"I've heard such good raps on him from other players at other clubs and he is really calm, really smart."

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