Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk did what stand-in
captains do – and then some – as he propelled the defending premiers
into a third straight NRL grand final in a 28-0 preliminary final
shutout of a disappointing Cronulla on Friday night.

It was a case of
Cameron who as the Storm shrugged off the soap opera surrounding the
midweek suspension of their talismanic leader Cameron Smith to book an
October 5 clash against the winner of Saturday night’s Manly-Warriors

Those thinking the loss of Smith would lead to the end of
the Storm empire were forced to reassess as Cronk stepped into the
breach with a sublime display.

But it could be another week of
judiciary drama for the Storm with Cronk involved in a lifting tackle
and prop Brett White put on report for elbowing rival prop Ben Ross.

efforts were aided by a Sharks performance which would have to go down
as their most lacklustre of the season, the still premiership-less club
suffering a poorly timed bout of stagefright.

By the time they
regained their composure to put some pressure on the Storm early in the
second half, it was already 16-0, and when they were unable to find a
path through the Melbourne wall despite numerous repeat sets, their
challenge was done.

The Storm then rubbed salt into into the
Sharks’ gaping wound with two late tries to Steve Turner and Matt
Geyer, Turner finishing the night with a personal tally of 16 points.

was a disappointing farewell for Sharks trio Isaac de Gois, Brett
Kimmorley and Danny Nutley, who all played their final game in the sky

The Sharks fumbled the game away inside the opening half
hour, their poor ball control allowing the Melbourne to establish a
lead they didn’t really deserve.

In recent weeks rival coaches
have claimed the Storm are there to be beaten and over the opening
stanza there were indications they were, only for the Sharks to fritter
away every opportunity.

The Storm on the other hand took theirs,
Cronk getting them going when he stepped through a yawning gap inside
his own half before landing a pin-point kick for Turner to score his
first after just three minutes.

The report on White didn’t effect the Storm’s momentum as Cronk fired a flat short ball for Israel Folau to make it 10-0.

balls continued to plague Cronulla before the Storm landed the killer
blow just five minutes from the break when replacement forward Adam
Blair picked a good time to score his first ever NRL try as he crashed
through four defenders for a 16-0 halftime lead.