Melbourne Storm

NRL grand final preview: Cronulla Sharks to put Melbourne Storm's elite defence to the test

People love to say defence wins championships, despite the fact that a superior attack can completely dismantle it. Just ask the 2015 Broncos.

And that is what the Sharks will look to do against the Storm when they face off in the decider at Sydney's Olympic stadium on Sunday.

But before we try to decipher what will happen on Sunday, we have to look back at what went down between these two in 2016.

What happened this year?

Wins were split as these teams faced off in round four and round 26 of 2016.

Slater almost cleared for shock return

Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater was almost cleared to make an unlikely return from injury in the NRL finals series.

Slater, 33, underwent surgery on his shoulder in March, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

But the full-back was pushing for a return, with the Storm facing the Cronulla Sharks in the grand final on Sunday.

Storm football director Frank Ponissi confirmed Slater was close to a surprise comeback.

"He was feeling great within himself, he started training and he just decided to ask the question then [in August]," he told SEN.

Storm will win: Tate

Tate represented Queensland and Australian with Storm captain Cameron Smith, and he believes Smith's ability to deliver when his side needs it most will ultimately result in premiership glory. 

Tate also has experience with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, playing for the Brisbane Broncos when Bellamy was still an assistant coach at the club in 2001 and 2002.

Head-to-Head: Cronk v Sezer

The Storm and Raiders finished first and second respectively on the 2016 Telstra Premiership ladder and now face off with a spot in the NRL Grand Final at stake.

Storm power into preliminary finals

A big second half from the home side saw them move to within one win of a grand final berth, as North Queensland will now host Brisbane next weekend in a rematch of last year's decider.

An early second half try to prop Jesse Bromwich would give the Storm a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as the Storm would quash the demons of last year's preliminary final loss to the Cowboys.

The opening 40 turned out to be a game of two halves, as Melbourne took it to the Cowboys from the outset and dominated the opening 20 minutes.

Melbourne Storm win NRL minor premiership after beating Cronulla Sharks 26-6 at AAMI Park

After losing to the out-of-sorts Broncos in round 25, the Storm returned to their absolute best in Saturday's first-versus-second showdown in front of 24,135 people at AAMI Park.

The Sharks, meanwhile, could fall from second to third and lose their rights to a home final in the opening week of the playoffs if the Raiders beat Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Canberra Raiders stun Melbourne Storm, move to third in NRL ladder

One week after handing Cronulla its first loss since March, the Raiders on Monday night became just the second team in 30 years to beat the competition leaders in back-to-back games.

In front of 15,707 fans at Canberra Stadium, the Raiders claimed arguably their best win for the year with their defence turning the Storm away 51 times inside their own 20m zone.

In contrast, Canberra had just 16 possessions in the opposition red zone.

Olam to travel south to tie down contract with Melbourne Storm

PNG Hunters utility Justin Olam will travel to Melbourne after the games this Sunday with the Redcliffe Dolphins to visit Melbourne Storms coach Craig Bellamy to see where he will be residing to play with his new NRL club.

Hunter’s coach Michael Marum said Justin is a dangerous player being in the Hunters team and his performance has boosted the team in many games.

“Replacing Co-Captain Noel Zeming, he has played well scoring tries and defending the corner lanes,” Marum said.

Melbourne Storm on top of NRL ladder after hammering Sydney Roosters

The emphatic victory saw the Storm reclaim first place on the ladder from Cronulla and they will hang on to it despite the fact the Sharks are yet to play their round-14 game.

Cronulla would have to beat reigning premiers North Queensland by more than 42 points on Monday night in what would be its 10th-straight win to take top spot back.

On Saturday night, the Storm looked every part worthy ladder leaders as long-serving stars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk led them around the park.

Storm defence holds strong as stars back up

Despite conceding in the opening 10 minutes the Storm kept the Panthers scoreless for the remainder of the game, much to coach Craig Bellamy's delight.

"I thought we were really strong defensively, they scored in the first 10 minutes, so to keep them scoreless for 70… it was outstanding," Bellamy said.