GREATNESS is always about timing. Nobody shows it better than Cameron Smith.
He slips out of dummy-half and finds Dale Finucane too early and the defence adjusts and cuts Finucane down. He passes any later and Finucane has passed by, so the pass either misses or goes forward.
It was a simple play made to look even simpler with Smith's great sense of when ...
Timing is always essential when it comes to assessing the great teams, too.
A lot of hyperbole accompanied grand final day.
The Storm were the greatest team ever. The Cowboys were about to cause the greatest grand final upset ever.
Cameron Smith was the greatest player ever. Billy Slater the greatest fullback ever ...
Much of it was state through the prism of now. The modern age, where gratification has to be instant.
When the rose coloured glasses are put on the night stand it is quick to see this Melbourne team does not rate anywhere near some of the great teams of the past.
Brisbane's 1998 team had 11 Test players: Darren Lockyer, Brad Thorn, Steve Renouf, Wendell Sailor, Kevin Walters, Shane Webcke, Darren Smith, Tonie Carroll, Andrew Gee, Allan Langer and Gorden Tallis. Michael De Vere would later play for Australia while, off the bench, Michael Hancock already had and Petero Civoniceva later would.
Four years earlier, Canberra's team had 10 Test players: Brett Mullins, Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart, Brad Clyde, Steve Walters, Ken Nagas, Ruben Wiki, Quentin Pongia, John Lomax (who missed the grand final) and David Furner. Two of the three who hadn't played Test football later would: Noa Nadruku and Jason Croker.
Eastern Suburbs had nine internationals in their 1974-75 premiership winning teams. Included were Immortal Arthur Beetson and so-close-he-should-be-an-Immortal, Ron Coote.
Canterbury's 1988 premiership winners had nine Test players: David Gillespie, Steve Folkes, Peter Tunks, Paul Dunn, Andrew Farrar, Terry Lamb, Paul Langmack, Tony Currie and, off the bench, Steve Mortimer.
This Melbourne team has similarities to Parramatta's 1981 squad, whose greatness was enhanced by their later years.
Those Eels were considered one of the great teams, dripping with talent and toughness. A look back now confirms any superlative you want to apply.
Thing is, they weren't quite as great back then. Brett Kenny had played just eight games before the 1981 season. Steve Ella just four. Eric Grothe was 16 games into his career, Peter Sterling 23 games, John Muggleton just seven games and Steve McKenzie made his debut that season.
All went on to become good, and some even great.
And for the Smiths and Slaters and Cronks those Eels had Ray Price and Mick Cronin and Bob O'Reilly.
Many of the Storm are still early in their careers.
Suliasi Vunivalu played just 16 games before this season.
Curtis Scott was the standout player in SG Ball several years ago and went into this season with just two top grade games. Josh Addo-Carr had played just nine.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona had just 27. Slade Griffin just 11.
Who knows what their future holds or how differently we will look at their careers in a decade or two.
All these teams challenge the Storm for the best team ever - and this is without even getting to St George's 1963 team that had 10 Test players, among them Norm Provan, Eddie Lumsden, Elton Rasmussen, Ian Walsh, Johnny King, Kevin Ryan and Billy Smith.
That list does not include the right bower; that with them were three of rugby league's Eight Immortals.
Any team that includes Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier and Graeme Langlands has to lay claim to be the greatest ever.
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