Durkin: Class should live happily ever after
I HAVE read - and written - the words fairy tale so regularly this past month I actually asked my good friend Google the definitive meaning.
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's grand final, those two words could be fittingly used to describe the result.
A fairy tale is generically defined as a mythical story.
It is a fiction, a legend, a romance and a fantasy.
A fairy tale can be something magical, idealised or extremely happy, but also a fabricated story, often intended to deceive.
Just about all those descriptions fit the scenario for the 2017 NRL grand final, but the most captivating has been the journey of the Cowboys to the big game. Paul Green's men have displayed incredible desire, self-belief and courage just to get there.
The fact the Cowboys scraped into the finals on a last-round upset by the Bulldogs over the Dragons is grounds alone for a fairy tale.
But considering they lost five of their final six premiership matches before that exemplifies just how ordinary they were travelling.
Yet, if they can pull it off tomorrow night they will be the first team in NRL history to win from eighth. And to achieve that feat considering their ailing finish to the season, without arguably their two most influential players, would be mythical.
Other reasons to mention the word unbelievable and the Cowboys in the same breath is that seven Cowboys - Bolton, Feldt, Hampton, Hess, Morgan, Jensen and Granville - are home-grown products.
And Warwick-born Justin O'Neill - who has won two premierships with the Storm - moved north as a kid.
In today's fully professional game where the dollar is king that says much about the culture existing at this unpretentious club.
Then there's the Hampton-Jordan McLean connection. Hampton played for the Storm in last year's grand final loss alongside his best mate McLean, who will be moving to the Cowboys in 2018 - at the prompting of Hampton.
And just finally on the Cowboys, two guys who transferred in mid-season - Shaun Fensom and Te Maire Martin - will go from the outhouse to the penthouse with a grand final win. That's a fairy tale.
As far as the Storm is concerned, the most-hyped fiction of all may be disclosed should they win.
Two modern-day marvels, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, are refusing to deny retirement at season's end.
And while neither has allowed a hint of intention to slip, a win would be a fabulous note on which both could exit magnificent careers.
Then there is skipper Cameron Smith, in another magical - almost mythical - place in his magnificent career.
Three weeks ago he became the most-capped player in the game and on Wednesday night was gonged three times at the Dally Ms.
If Melbourne wins tomorrow it will be the fourth time the 34-year-old has raised the trophy, a captain's mark bettered only by Jack Rayner and Ken Kearney.
Yet there's more. Have a look at the incredible 2017 season of the Dally M player, hooker and captain of the year:
Round 2: The first forward in the history of the premiership to score 2000 points.
Round 5: Broke the record for most wins in premiership history, eclipsing Darren Lockyer (237 wins).
Round 9: Bettered Jason Taylor's record for most goals kicked (942).
Rep round: The second Australian to appear in 50 Tests. Lockyer's record is 59.
Origin I: The first to play 40 Origin games.
Origin III: His 20th Origin appearance at Suncorp tied the Wally Lewis record.
Round 21: Third to play 350 premiership games.
Round 24: First to captain in 250 games.
Round 25: First in premiership history to notch 250 wins.
Finals, week 1: Broke Lockyer's appearance record of 355 NRL games.
Finals, week 3: First premiership player to kick 1000 goals.
Grand Final: Needs two points tomorrow to be second on the list of premiership point scorers. On 2175 points, Smith is one behind Andrew Johns, with Hazem El Masri (2,418) in his sights.
That remarkable list of achievements is not fiction, nor is it intended to deceive. And while fairy tales such as those relating to the Cowboys warrant a happy ending, Smith and his team have been the benchmark all season and unreservedly deserve to reap the fruits of their marvellous labour.
Let class dictate, not fairies.
*Cameron Smith's 2017 season stats courtesy of David Middleton, League Information Services