Margie McDonald | October 04, 2009
MELBOURNE is the NRL premier after defeating Parramatta 23-16 in the grand final at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
A Greg Inglis field goal put Melbourne’s third premiership beyond doubt as the Storm battled a dogged Parramatta side as well as the majority of the capacity crowd of 82,538, most of whom were decked out in Eels colours.
After cult hero Fuifui Moimoi ran 20 metres to score with eight minutes left on the clock to bring the Eels within a converted try of forcing extra-time, Inglis potted the field goal to make sure there would be no fairytale comeback by Parramatta.
Melbourne’s 2009 triumph adds to the 2007 and 1999 NRL trophies carried south of the border.
Nine members of the 2009 side were on the losing end of the 2008 grand final, when Manly ran riot to win 40-0.
For five-eighth Brett Finch it was third time lucky. He left Parramatta after round six when told he was not wanted for coach Daniel Anderson’s 2010 plans and was given a lifeline by Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
Finch lost the 2003 and 2004 grand finals with the Sydney Roosters but at 28, he felt his time might be running out to win the biggest club game of the year.
It took 45 minutes before Parramatta put points on the scoreboard. But it brought the crowd to life when Feleti Mateo made a break down the left-hand side of the field. Two tackles later and the ball ended up on the right-hand side in the arms of Eric Grothe. He stepped left to avoid three Storm defenders sliding across and simply ran over the top of Test fullback Billy Slater to score.
At 10-6 the Eels were back in the fray but then Inglis turned up to retrieve a Cooper Cronk high cross-field kick, which no-one in Parramatta seemed to want. Admittedly opposing centre Joel Reddy was sitting on the sidelines after a head knock in a Finch one-on-one tackle late in the first half.
But when Inglis’ try was combined with one by Slater six minutes later, it shot Melbourne out to 22-6 with 22 minutes left.
That alone would have been worth the overnight bus trip up the Hume Highway from Melbourne for the Storm supporters.
The two Melbourne players that missed last year’s grand final through injury and suspension, Ryan Hoffman (try-scorer) and Cam Smith (conversion), scored the first points today.
Finch was involved in Storm’s second try when he switched play from left to right and gave halfback Cooper Cronk a little room to move. A dummy and then a tackle bust through prop Tim Mannah and Cronk was away.
He passed to backrower Adam Blair, who did the rest for 10-0. Blair played in Melbourne’s losing grand final sides in 2006 (against Brisbane) and 2008 (Manly), missing the win in 2007 (Manly).
MELBOURNE 23 (A Blair R Hoffman G Inglis B Slater tries C Smith 3 goals G Inglis field goal) PARRAMATTA 16 (E Grothe F Moimoi J Reddy tries L Burt 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Tony Archer, Shayne Hayne. Crowd: 82,538.