And the winner is ? Rupert Murdoch

The Grand Final is still two and a half days away, but the winner can already be declared ? Rupert Murdoch and News Limited!

Sunday night?s match is a News Limited clash, between the News Limited-owned Melbourne Storm and the News Limited-controlled Brisbane Broncos. (Oh, and the NRL itself is 50 per cent owned by News for good measure).

But the ownership issue is where the similarities end. The Broncos have a huge membership and fan base, and are profitable. The Storm has a limited (though growing) base in the AFL heartland, and survives financially thanks to News. The Broncos were a product of the old NSWRL expansion in 1988; the Storm resulted from the settlement of the Super League War a decade later.

So News Limited will win either way on Sunday night ? though it has already scored something of a victory with the improved television deal with Nine to start next year. Rupert scoops half the higher NRL profit that should result.

Now to the game itself. It is a contest between the stand-out team of the 2006 season (Storm) and the most improved team in the finals series (Broncos). The Storm easily won the minor premiership, while the Broncos, after a poor start in the opening finals week, have been the form team since with a crushing win over the Knights and a very comfortable defeat of the one time premiership favourites, the Bulldogs, a week ago.

Since the formation of the NRL in 1998, the Storm have won one premiership (1999) and the Broncos two (1998 and 2000).

While the Broncos players have significantly more grand final, and ?big game?, experience, the Storm have the Dally M Player of the Year (Cameron Smith) and the rising star in the game (but not the best ever) Greg Inglis.

If the punters have it right, then the Storm will bolt in. The weight of money is very heavily with the Storm this week, but the punters often get it wrong! I slipped down the tipping competition scale this season, so my prediction should be ignored.

However, being a punter I always regard ?form? as the number one guide, so I am going for the ?form? team, the Storm.

Whatever the result, stay tuned to the post match presentation. John Howard will, as is custom, present the TELSTRA premiership trophy (at TELSTRA Stadium) and he will be joined on the podium by Sol J Trujillo, the CEO who cost more than Steve Austin, the six-million dollar man.

The ?atmosphere? at kick off may be very tame when compared to that at the presentation!

Enjoy what should be a bottler of a Grand Final!

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