In the end, eight was not enough, as the Melbourne Storm convincingly called a halt to the North Queensland Cowboys’ improbable fairytale NRL finals journey with 34 – 6 rout in front of a less-than capacity crowd at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
We will leave it in the capable minds of our reader to made the determination of whether our eight is enough reference was due to the Cows qualifying as the eighth and final seed, it was a reference to an obscure late 70s/early 80s television show, or, we were engaging in a bit of revisionist fairytale history and were increasing Snow White’s posse by one.
To be fair, ANZ holds almost 85,000 spectators, so it is hard to fault the NRL in any way, as the Grand Final featured to out-of-state teams. Had the Chooks made it in, you could have been certain that the stadium would have been packed and that, just as some Tigers fans were forced to watch on the big screen at the team’s Punt Road Oval, Rooster fans would have packed ANZ.
The game did, however, hold a fairytale ending for three Storm players who will go out on top and whose names will occupy prominent spots in the rolls of NRL history.
Storm Captain Cameron Smith was at his vintage best for the entire game. He kept the Cows’ defense off-balance and forced them to make poor decisions.
Billy Slater was a true force, well nigh uncatchable and the set-up man for two tries and scorer of one himself on his way to man of the match Clive Churchill Medal honours.
Then, there was Cooper Cronk, who directed the Storm with his typical aplomb and experience.
It is likely those three have played their last game together, although the world of sports is filled with improbable happenings at every turn.
Cronk is leaving, Slater has yet to decide whether to play on or to call time.
Smith turned the occasion into a showcase of the skills that has made him a presumptive Hall-of-Famer.
The Cowboys did not really play all that badly and their effort could not in any way be faulted, but they ran into a Storm that was forced to wait until this year for landfall after being derailed last season by Cronulla.