Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

11 things you need to know about..... the NRL grand final

James Maloney of the Sharks scores a try during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys. Photo / Getty Images.
James Maloney of the Sharks scores a try during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys. Photo / Getty Images.

Chris Rattue breaks down 10 things you need to know about the NRL grand final.

1) The NRL grand finals are always held in Sydney, a tradition which has not been broken by the spread of the game to a few areas out of New South Wales. Since 1999, the premiership decider is held at the Olympic Stadium which initially had a capacity over 100,000 - there were 107,500 at the 1999 game. The capacity is now 83,500.

2) The Melbourne club was established during the Super League war of the 1990s and entered the NRL in 1998. They have made six grand finals during that time, a feat matched only by the Sydney Roosters. The Storm won four of those but were stripped of two titles for salary cap breaches.

3) The Sharks entered the competition in 1967 and have never won the title, establishing a famous bridesmaids reputation by losing the 1973 and 1978 grand finals, along with the Super League final of 1997.

4) The 50-year-old Shane Flanagan, who played first grade for three NRL clubs up until 1994, took over as Sharks head coach in 2010. He has been making a comeback from the club's supplements programme controversy which saw him suspended for the 2014 season. He was found not to have had any input into the program but 'failed the players in regards to safeguarding their health and welfare'.

5) Melbourne coach Craig "Bellyache" Bellamy, 56, had a long playing career with Canberra. He has established himself as among the greatest coaches in any football code since taking over the Storm in 2003. When Bellamy coached New South Wales, Flanagan was his assistant in three losing State of Origin series. Flanagan has described Bellamy as a "real mentor of mine" and told the SMH "I definitely model my coaching on the principles he applies as well...and probably copied a bit off him." It is reported they holiday together and keep in regular contact.

6) The fastidious Bellamy once revealed he watched 18 hours of video a week, with 12 of those on the opposition. Obsessive halfback Cooper Cronk is the player who wanted the most detail on opponents, the SMH reported, while the great hooker Cameron Smith wants a moderate amount. Some want none - former Storm star Greg Inglis told Bellamy "I don't give a f!@#."

7) The Sharks have three ex-Warriors in Aussies James Maloney, Chad Townsend and Jayson Bukuya. They have a couple New Zealand backs in the Auckland-raised wing Sosaia Feki, who should get a Kiwi call up this year, and test utility Gerard Beale. The Storm pack relies heavily on Kiwis - Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Tohu Harris and Kevin Proctor.

8) Star ex-Kiwi forward Tawera Nikau played for Cronulla in the 1997 Super League grand final when they lost to Brisbane, and the Melbourne Storm in their first title win when they beat the Dragons in 1999. Although he did not win the award, most judged him man of the match against the Dragons.

9) The NRL altered the extra time rules for finals matches a couple of months ago. There will be five minutes of extra time each way before golden point is used, if needed. The NRL believes it will encourage more expansive football rather than the mad scramble to land a field goal, and make it less likely that golden point is the decider.

10) Melbourne are slight favourites with the bookies, but neither club is very popular with neutrals. Under normal circumstances, there should be a lot of goodwill for Cronulla. They have struggled to get major sponsorship and have built a club on clever work. But the supplements scandal and a team noted for dishing out the niggle - led by Michael Ennis and James Maloney - is not top of the pops. Melbourne are often criticised for their wrestling tactics in tackles, designed to slow down the play the ball and upset opponents' rhythm. And one suspects Sydney league is a little jealous of Melbourne's success.

11) The two teams shared their matches this season but Cronulla have a terrible record against the Storm losing 10 of their last 12 games.

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