NRL: Grand final participants already decided?

The Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm are six points clear at the top of the NRL table. Photo / Getty Images
The Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm are six points clear at the top of the NRL table. Photo / Getty Images

Christmas holidays at Rainbow Bay could be a little different for Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan and Melbourne counterpart Craig Bellamy this year.

If history repeats itself, Flanagan's Sharks and Bellamy's Storm will meet in the NRL grand final.

The last time two teams who sat at least six points clear of their rivals after 14 rounds was Manly and Melbourne in 2007, who faced of in that year's grand final.

The Sharks and Storm have raced out to 24 competition points, and are suddenly six points in front of premiers North Queensland, Brisbane and the soon-to-be-docked Parramatta.

On the same day the TAB listed Cronulla $4.25 joint premiership favourites with the Broncos, Flanagan said he never expected his side to be so far out in front on the ladder.

Flanagan also spoke of his enormous respect for Bellamy, the man he socialises with in Coolangatta most summers, whom he worked under as an assistant with the NSW Origin team for three years _ and now the same man who could stand in the way of the Shire club's first-ever title.

"Craig definitely had a big impact on the way I wanted my teams to play and the way he coached," Flanagan told The Daily Telegraph.

"I hope you're right (about history repeating itself).

"I always wanted us to be a top-four team throughout the year, and we're doing that at the moment. But I honestly didn't think we'd be six points clear of third place halfway through the year.

"I think Melbourne, the Cowboys and Broncos will still be there. The Raiders and Panthers are the next ones I'm looking at to see how they go over the next month. But the other three teams are quality, and although we beat the Cowboys on Monday night, if we played them again today they could beat us."

One big advantage for the Sharks has been the fact they have dodged injury, and only used 19 players this campaign. The only pair who came out of Monday's clash with some niggles were skipper Paul Gallen (ankle) and Jack Bird (shoulder), who are now in Origin camp.

With five players tied up with the Blues, including Wade Graham who will fight a careless high tackle charge tonight, Flanagan knows he will need to start monitoring workloads.

Gallen will definitely be rested for at least one weekend in the run home to the finals, Flanagan said. He'll also watch Newtown on Friday night with the knowledge a few players will be called up for the Sharks when they meet Penrith minus their Origin stars in a few weeks.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 27 Oct 2016 17:31:19 Processing Time: 783ms