Brett Finch is uniquely placed to comment on Sunday’s NRL grand final, having played in deciders for both the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters.
Finch’s two grand finals with the Roosters in 2003 and 2004 ended in heartbreak, but he helped the Storm to victory in 2009.
The Storm have contested seven of the last 12 grand finals and are favourites to win another premiership against the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Sunday evening.
It is an incredible record and Finch says the club’s consistency in big matches comes down to Craig Bellamy – Storm head coach since 2003 – and his simplicity.
“It obviously helps that there’s a coach and senior players who have been involved in so many big games, not only for the Storm, but Origin, Australia and New Zealand,” Finch told The New Daily.
“They’ve got a lot of senior players there and a wealth of experience.
“But the simple thing is the message [ahead of big games]. The message and their focus is always so simple.
“Craig Bellamy always wants you to do your job and do your job well. He will say ‘don’t try anything else you haven’t done all year, don’t try and invent stuff, don’t make stuff up, you just worry about your job and focus on doing it well’.
“If you have 17 blokes doing your job and doing it well, the result should take care of itself.”
Finch – who won his premiership at the Storm under Bellamy – said the master coach reinforces one message during grand final week.
“You can easily get carried away during grand final week and get caught up with it all,” he said.
“But you’ve got to narrow your focus and realise you’ve just got to do your job and do it well.”
Finch does not believe Roosters star Cooper Cronk – who left the Storm at the end of last season – will play after the AC joint injury he suffered in the club’s preliminary final win over South Sydney.
Cronk’s fitness has been the hottest talking point in rugby league in recent days and Finch, a former teammate of Cronk’s, said he “doesn’t think he’ll play”.
“Cooper’s not really one for games … I think if he’s fit to play, you name him,” he said.
“He is as professional as they get, Cooper. He works extremely hard on his preparation but he’s only human.
“If the injury is too significant, there’s only so much you can recover from in eight days.
“He still steered that team to a win against Souths – it’s more the fact that he virtually can’t do anything … he couldn’t kick, he struggled to pass.”
Finch, who said the fact Melbourne fullback Billy Slater could have missed out on the decider through suspension was “just ridiculous”, feels that in Cronk’s absence, the Storm will be too good in a classic grand final.
“I’ve got the Storm by 10 but that’s on the back of ‘Coops’ not playing,” he said.
“Even if Coops was playing, I’m still leaning towards Melbourne. I think it will be a great game. They’ve been the two standouts all year.”
And he is tipping a rugby league legend in Cameron Smith to be the difference between the two sides.
“The number nine for Melbourne – he’s been the difference in the nearly 400 games he has played,” he said.
“A lot of what Melbourne does goes through him. If he has a blinder, it will be pretty short odds that Melbourne are going to win.
“If the Roosters can nullify him, then obviously it gives them a greater chance of winning.
“Like most games, I think he is the key – and he will be again on Sunday night.”
Don’t miss the grand final day action on FOX LEAGUE with the WNRL Grand Final and the Intrust Super State Championship LIVE and ad-break free during play from 1.20pm (AEST).
The 2018 NRL grand final then follows on the Nine Network from 6.30pm.