The purple reign is complete. The best team of the year, who have been the best team for a decade or more, are NRL champions again. It is their third official title -- not including the two that were stripped for salary cap breaches.
The Melbourne Storm did in this 2017 NRL Grand Final what they've done for so long now. In short, dominate. Grind their opponents down by doing all the little things right. Then bust them open with flashes of brilliance.
In the end, they beat the North Queensland Cowboys 34-6.
And they did it by their big three -- Slater, Cronk and Smith -- being absolutely brilliant, and by the supporting cast of players feeding off them, and rising to something approaching their level.
You know when you play tennis or pool or golf with someone better and you lift to their level almost as though you don't want to be embarrassed? That's how things seem to work with the supporting players at the juggernaut that is the Melbourne Storm rugby league club.
"We back each other on the field, we work hard for each other and that's what it is, " two try grand final hero Josh Addo-Carr said. Which is true at every club, but it seems to be doubly true at the Storm.
- Billy Slater won his second Clive Churchill medal and teared up for the second time in 10 minutes as he thanked his wife Nicole.
- This was the Storm's sixth grand final in the last decade. They have officially won two of those, and won two others which were taken away due to salary cap breaches.
- Storm halfback Cooper Cronk has made no commitment about playing on next year, but will leave the Storm now
"A lotta hard work, mate. A lotta hard work," Storm fullback Billy Slater said of both his personal and team journey in season 2017, a kid in each arm, as he teared up.
"I honestly didn't know whether my body would let me back here," he said, in reference to his missed season of 2016 and the incredible amount of recovery work he had to do.
"It's a good feeling."
Meanwhile, star half back Cooper Cronk, who is leaving the Storm after this year and who may never play again, said he didn't know where he'd be if it wasn't for Melbourne Storm. Normally it's the club who would be nowhere without the player. But again, this is a sporting institution that nurtures people.
There really is no club like the Storm in Australian sport.
THE FIRST HALF
Things got tough at just the three minute mark for the Cowboys when they lost Shaun Fensom to a suspected broken left fibia. Ouch.
Despite that setback, the first 10 minutes of the game were a real arm wrestle. There were no signs of a blow-out, but that's how it usually goes with the Storm. But gradually, gradually, they got on top. Imagine two huge men arm-wrestling, one staying calm, the other starting to sweat and buckle.
That's how it was. And then the Cowboys cracked. A beautiful length-of-the-field effort was finished by Josh Ado-Carr, a player who could run 10.6 for the 100m when he was 16, and a player who the Wests Tigers were unable to get the best out of in season 2016.
But when Storm coach Craig Bellamy got his hands on him at the Storm, he turned him into a safe, reliable contributor, as he has done with so many rejected fish over the years.
Another try followed when Cooper Cronk passed to Billy Slater, who laid it on for Felise Kaufusi to score. Then a third came just before halftime after Cowboy Antonio Winterstein fumbled a grubber.
As the scrum set, the stadium audio played the old Talking Heads classic "Road to Nowhere". And when Billy Slater crossed for the Storm's third try a couple of tackles later, a road to nowhere is exactly what the Cowboys seemed to be on.
The Storm led 18-0 at halftime and although that margin was theoretically possible to breach, this was the Storm we were talking about here. And it was a Cowboys team missing their two best players (and co-captains) -- Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
Though the Cowboys had claimed three upset victories in a finals series in which they improbably came from eighth spot (after barely scraping into the finals), they had never been more than a try behind in any of their wins. But this was different.
THE SECOND HALF
The Cowboys scored early in the second half, as they had to. But that was as good as it got. The Storm just rolled on without ever seeming even slightly flustered.
Soon enough, the points came. Cameron Smith threw a short pass to Dale Finucane who crashed over to the right of the posts. The Bega-born prop had previously lost three grand finals, but it looked like that Storm magic dust had finally seeped into his skin.
When Josh Addo-Carr collected a loose ball in the 68th minute and offloaded to Curtis Scott, the match was effectively over. Addo-Carr's 74th minute effort was the icing.
So the Storm win again. And a good chunk of the population in Melbourne will be celebrating for the second time in two days this Sunday evening.Suggest a correction