Herald league writer David Skipwith examines three points ahead of tonight's NRL grand final between Melbourne and Cronulla.

1. Cronulla fairytale, Melbourne juggernaut

Melbourne, heading into their seventh grand final, have for so long been the benchmark side of the competition and despite being stripped of their 2007 and 2009 premierships the club remains synonymous with success.

Under the relentless coaching of Craig Bellamy and guided on-field by 300-game duo, captain Cameron Smith and Dally M award-winning halfback Cooper Cronk, Melbourne are a model of professionalism.


The Sharks, on the other hand, have never won a premiership and arrive at ANZ Stadium desperate to break their 50-year title drought.

The club has also endured two miserable years that saw them finish the 2014 season with the wooden spoon and their reputation in tatters following the ASADA scandal, while also having dragged themselves out of bankruptcy and numerous off-field dramas.

A historic win after such dark times would also be fitting reward for Sharks captain Paul Gallen in his 15th season, playing in his first grand final, and retiring hooker Michael Ennis, and coach Shane Flanagan.

2. Storm defence tough to crack

On the face of it they appear as two contrasting sides but both Melbourne and Cronulla actually play similar styles based on go-forward in the middle of the park and strong defence.

The Storm are extremely well-drilled and almost robotic in the execution of their sets with the ball and in defence but do have individual match-winners such as Cronk, Smith and Billy Slater's fullback replacement Cameron Munster.

Melbourne are masters of percentage football and have conceded the least points in 2016 (12.5 per game), along with the least handling mistakes (7.7), least linebreaks (2.7) and least missed tackles (19.5). They also control the football better than any side, boasting a completion rate of 81.9 per cent.

The Sharks will need to start well and be clinical in finishing off what few attacking opportunities are thrown their way by Melbourne.

3. Storm confident but momentum with Sharks

The Storm will be confident after beating the Sharks 26-6 in the round 26 clash in Melbourne to decide the minor premiership but will need to raise their performance after looking vulnerable in last week's narrow grand final qualifying win over Canberra.

The Sharks have all the momentum, after enjoying a 15-game winning streak, the longest of the season, and last week's impressive preliminary final win over the Cowboys.

Expect a tight defensive game although both teams have skill and athleticism in the halves and out wide to ensure some exciting running football.

As usual, Cronk and Smith will control the Storm attack and looked to control the tempo of the match as it suits their side.

Melbourne will back their defence and look to force the Sharks into errors to provide them with attacking chances. Key for them will be how well they manage to limit the space and amount of ball given to the likes of fiery Sharks forward Andrew Fifita and brilliant fullback Ben Barba.

But if Cronulla can get a roll on and manage to offload and shift the ball and ask questions of the defence, they could unsettle Melbourne's structured play.

If they can post early points and force the Storm into playing catch-up in the second-half, the Sharks have the experience and grit to close the game out.

NRL grand final: Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks
ANZ Stadium, tonight, 9.15pm

Storm: 1. Cameron Munster 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Blake Green 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane.
Interchange: 14. Kenneath Bromwich 15. Tim Glasby 16. Christian Welch 17. Ben Hampton 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Slade Griffin 20. Matt White 21. Felise Kaufusi 22. Ryan Morgan.

Sharks: 1. Ben Barba 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Valentine Holmes 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen
Interchange: 14. Gerard Beale 15. Chris Heighington 16. Sam Tagataese 17. Jayson Bukuya 18. Kurt Capewell 21. Joseph Paulo

Referees: Matt Cecchin and Ben Cummins