Five burning questions: Melbourne Storm v North Qld Cowboys

Did that second half jolt the Storm back into life?

Melbourne's first three halves of finals football weren't very Melbourne at all. Against Parramatta, they looked like a resuming galloper short of a run. Against Brisbane, who pushed the boundaries of the rules with an in-your-face (and back) defence, they were rattled at times. Then, they had a drink, talked things over, freshened up, Cooper Cronk most likely gave his socks a half-time iron and they demolished the Broncos 30-0. All of a sudden, the Storm we had seen all season were back to their crisp, clinical best. Once the first few tries arrived, the flood was unstoppable. That's the kind of team the Cowboys should expect to face from the outset on Sunday, not the one that had the fumbles and for a time looked uncharacteristically nervous under the heat of the finals spotlights.

Will this be the final time we see Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in the NRL?

If so, what a privilege it has been. While Cameron Smith has committed to playing until his 65th birthday, the other two pillars of the Big Three are yet to decide what to do beyond this season. Cronk will move to Sydney and if he has found a new club, it might be the best-kept secret in Australian sport. The smart money continues to suggest he will retire after the World Cup. Slater has been a revelation all over again since returning from a long-term shoulder injury earlier in the season. He was wonderful for his state in the final two Origins and superb for Melbourne in their run to the grand final. A victory would cap off remarkable careers for both of them. Slater will be remembered as the finest fullback rugby league has seen, while Cronk has willed his way to a greatness of his own.

New heights: Can Michael Morgan keep getting better? Photo: NRL Imagery, Grant Trouville

New heights: Can Michael Morgan keep getting better? Photo: NRL Imagery, Grant Trouville

Can Michael Morgan continue to reach new heights?

For a bloke that helped win Queensland a game at centre earlier in the year, Michael Morgan makes a pretty handy halfback. What a weapon this man has become for the Cowboys and you better believe he loves the grand stage. It does feel like all of this has happened in the blink of an eye. Everyone knew Morgan was a gun with ball in hand but his kicking game has gone to the next level. His tactical kicks played a massive role in the win over the Roosters and he must repeat the dose against the best in the business in Cronk, who loves to control matches with an iron fist. Morgan plays the humble hero, but he backs himself without question and hasn't been afraid to chance his arm when needed. He was superb in the prelim but needs to be even better on Sunday. Has it in him.

Can the Storm's pack mentality take the edge off Jason Taumalolo?

This looks as if it will be the most fascinating contest across the park and someone like Tim Glasby comes right into play. Just as he did when faced with another monster in the form of Andrew Fifita, Glasby will be one of the Storm forwards asked to slow the impact of Taumalolo, who along with Morgan has been the driving force of their finals campaign. Nobody can get the better of the Cowboys lock one-on-one throughout an 80-minute contest. Melbourne's middle men will have to tackle in bunches and do their best to keep his metres after contact to a minimum, as well as his quick play-the-balls. If they can't, the other JT might just carry the Cowboys to another premiership.

Will anyone in Sydney care?

We really hope so, because this is a grand final featuring a team that has deserved it all year and a team that has deserved it all month. It's time to forget about all of the gripes about referees and the bunker and questionable concussion rulings and take in a grand final that features some of the best players the game has ever seen, as well as a few that might be on the way. Melbourne are on the verge of completing one of the NRL's most dominant seasons and are a far cry from the robotic wrestlers of previous eras. Yes, they can sour the ruck in defence but are spectacular once they get rolling in attack. The Cowboys have defied expectations and believe they can defy it one more time. You could argue their heartland loves the game like no other. This has all the makings of something special.

The story Five burning questions: Melbourne Storm v North Qld Cowboys first appeared on Brisbane Times.

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