SYDNEY - No-one knows the value of Melbourne’s star trio of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk better than their former Queensland teammate Petero Civoniceva.
Having played in 33 State of Origin matches, it was during the closing stages of his swansong in July that Civoniceva truly appreciated the importance of the Storm’s big-game performers.
With nine minutes remaining, NSW levelled through a Josh Morris wonder try, converted by Todd Carney from the sideline.
A fired-up Blues side, desperate to end a run of six straight series losses, had their tails up, the Brisbane crowd were quiet and Paul Gallen and company could smell blood.
But thanks to the calm head of Smith and Cronk’s 40-metre field goal four minutes from time, the Maroons climbed off the canvas to inflict another bloody nose on NSW.
And this is why Civoniceva cannot see anything but a Melbourne win against Canterbury in Sunday’s NRL grand final.
“We’ve seen it time and time again, whether they’re playing for Melbourne, Queensland or in the Test team, their composure in tight games gets the team home,” Civoniceva told AAP.
“I’ve never seen Cameron get flustered, on or off the field. He’s always got a cool, calm manner about him.
“He was exactly that in that Origin game. We stood under the posts after they’d scored and he just said: ‘Keep calm, stay composed. We’ll get through this’
“It’s exactly what we needed to hear in a tough situation.
“That composure allowed us to get some momentum, make some inroads up the field, we got Cooper into the slot, and he kicked the field goal.”
Civoniceva was a member of the Brisbane side that beat Melbourne in the 2006 grand final and earlier this week Cronk admitted that he’d let the occasion get to him.
Smith and Slater were also part of that Storm team which, like the current Canterbury side were in red-hot form, but with no experience of playing in a grand final.