Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Grand final glory on the line once more for the competition's two most successful teams
As a sea of green rose to their feet when John Bateman raced in for the match-winning try against Melbourne a fortnight ago, they were joined by the majority of neutral fans.
The Raiders were certainly a crowd favourite but they weren't the only ones. Parramatta and Manly had both re-invigorated themselves from the despair of 2018 and were the perfect fairy tale story.
But regardless, Melbourne's defeat meant that they could no longer qualify for another decider against the Roosters.
Rival fans are jealous of their success - both clubs have featured in 15 of the past 20 grand finals.
It will become 16 when Saturday night's game draws to a close.
The full-time siren could also bring to an end one of the great rugby league careers, that of maestro halfback Cooper Cronk.
While much of has been made of his dealings, or lack thereof, with Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith, the Storm will be determined to simply get the job done on Saturday.
Even if it means ending the career of the man who for so long was the pillar of their success along with Smith and recently retired fullback Billy Slater.
Many experts had been warning that the Roosters were simply waiting for the finals themselves.
While dismantling lowly teams like Newcastle and the Gold Coast along the way, it never looked like Trent Robinson's men had reached their full potential.
The first-half against the Rabbitohs showed just how scary their full potential is.
They had way too much firepower that night but may find the Storm a tougher prospect to crack, particularly without Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension) laying the platform up front.
Melbourne were unlucky to not earn the week off after a last-minute loss to Canberra.
They made sure not to get too caught up thinking of what could have been though, dismantling Parramatta 32-0 in typical Storm fashion.
Smith will need to be better off the boot this time though, missing five attempts at conversion in that game.
Against a Roosters side who are so strong defending their line, the key may be to spread the ball early to the likes of Josh Addo-Carr, who wreaked havoc early against the Eels.
Alternatively, the absence of JWH may simply see Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona gain ascendancy through the middle.
Last meeting: Round 15 2019 - Roosters 12 Storm 14
Last finals meeting: Grand Final 2018 - Roosters 21 Storm 6
Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks alone is worth the price of admission here. James Tedesco is the full package now having taken his game to another level since leaving the Tigers. His running game was always his strength but now he also can throw the long ball needed on sweeping backline plays. He is so deceptive with the ball in hand and physically strong at the same time.
Ryan Papenhuyzen has made such an explosive start to his short career that statisticians have already been crunching the numbers to compare his output with that of Tedesco. While Papenhuyzen may not be the biggest fullback running around in the game, he certainly doesn't give much up in energy and power. The Melbourne dynamo has a knack for breaking tackles, much like Tedesco, but unlike the Roosters number one he has blistering pace.
The favourite: The Roosters are favourites having only lost one game this year at the SCG.
My tip: This won't be the blowout we had in last year's decider, although the Roosters are capable of skipping out to a quick lead. Let's say a Smith field goal will end Cronk's career. Storm by 1.
Outcome: The winner proceeds to the 2019 Grand Final on Sunday October 6, where they'll face the winner of the Raiders-Rabbitohs preliminary final.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Isaac Liu 9. Sam Verrills 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Angus Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 17. Will Chambers 3. Curtis Scott 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Max King 21. Sandor Earl
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sharpe, Nick Beashel; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;