2018 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 118/200 (59%)
Line Betting: 43/89 (48%)
2017 Season Results:
Head-to-Head Tipping: 66%
Line Betting: 55%
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NRL Grand Final Tips and Previews
Roosters v Storm
Offense VOA: Roosters 11.18% (4th), Storm 7.91% (5th)
Defense VOA: Roosters -44.17% (1st), Storm -30.92% (2nd)
How much is one Cooper Cronk worth?
That’s the final unanswered question of 2018, and we’ll find out on Sunday evening, ironically via his expected absence.
Over the balance of 2018, we’d argue that the Roosters have been the best team in rugby league, albeit by a very slight margin (the Storm and Rabbitohs both deserve to be mentioned in the same breath). However, with Cronk suffering a “severe rotator cuff injury” that will see him either severely hampered or missing the Grand Final altogether, the question becomes: how far do you mark the Roosters down? Is Cronk worth 2 points? 6 points? Or nothing at all?
You’ll recall that when these sides played earlier in the year in Adelaide, the Storm squeaked out a 9-8 victory, though only with the help of two missed goal attempts from Latrell Mitchell, and a sin-bin for Victor Radley (during which the Storm scored their only try of the game). Otherwise, the Roosters’ defense was flawless that night, and will need to be again here, with a weakened offense.
The Roosters appear to have acknowledged that, naming Mitch Aubusson at 7 in the early team list. Though it’s no guarantee that Aubusson actually plays there (Sean O’Sullivan replaced Cronk in his only other absence this season, and has been named in the extended squad), we’d probably agree that if Cronk misses this game, it’s of absolute importance to preserve the quality of their defense. To that end, Aubusson is probably the best available option – he’s fit, mobile, and has conceded just 4 line breaks all season in 23 matches (including 12 that he’s started on the edge). Defensively at least, they’d lose nothing starting Aubusson (and could possibly even be better).
Offensively though… it’s not great. Although Cronk is at best the third most important attacking option for the Roosters (behind Luke Keary and James Tedesco, who rank 1st and 2nd on the team for try assists, line break assists, and try involvements), he still serves an important role in keeping the defense honest; with Cronk out, everything the Roosters run will be going through Luke Keary – and the Storm know it. We’d expect the Storm’s elite defense to severely limit the Roosters’ scoring opportunities anyway, but with only one legitimate ballplayer, the Roosters will be lucky to score 2 tries (yes, their defense is that good that they mightn’t need to score 2 tries, but this only serves to reinforce the point that preserving their defense is vital).
And finally, we can’t forget to mention the main role that Cronk plays for the Roosters – that of the primary general play kicker. Cronk takes the lion’s share of both long and short kicking duties, having made almost 4 times as many kicks as the next option, Keary. Cronk’s loss here is most likely to be felt in the long kicking game, where outside Keary and hooker Jake Friend (who’s made just 12 long kicks all year), nobody else named in the 17 has made more than 1. Presumably Friend will be expected to contribute this weekend, but still, the predictability of the Roosters’ long kicking game will see Keary under enormous pressure late in sets, and in turn affect the kick quality. In what’s likely to be a low-scoring game, field position will be king; and though it mightn’t be immediately obvious, poor long kicks can add up to plenty of metres, particularly if you’re kicking to a back-three of Billy Slater, Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr.
Of course, it remains conceivably possible that Cooper Cronk may yet play, though if he does, we’d expect he won’t be very good (and would possibly mark the Roosters down even further). Ultimately, we’re expecting a dire, low-scoring affair, not largely dissimilar to their Round 16 meeting. In that event, the loss of Cronk and his game management may very well prove to be the difference; but we’re not writing Sydney off, and look forward to finding out exactly what Cronk is worth.
Our tip: Storm