Their game plan without Thurston was sturdy and low-risk, good enough to get them past brittle opponents in September but no match for the Storm in October.
Up by 22 with seven minutes to play at ANZ Stadium, the Storm's big three signed off one last time with their hallmark inside-outside play that has long defined their telepathic combination.
"This Sunday's grand final will be the first grand final in history where not one New South Wales Origin player will step foot on the field".
Slater broke down several times following the Melbourne Storm's 34-6 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys, overcome with emotion following his long journey back from a knee injury that nearly ended his playing days.
Through the finals they average only eight errors per match, employing a safety-first style which saw them offload less than any team in the NRL this season, and finish with one of the best average completion rates over 24 regular season games.
If you are going to overcome this mob, you'll have to do it the hard way, because North Queensland don't do freebies.
Dale Finucane restored his team's advantage in the 64th minute and from there the Storm were never threatened as they avenged last year's grand final loss to Cronulla.
Slater capped off his comeback by winning the Clive Churchill medal, scoring a try and having a hand in two others, while Smith and Tohu Harris were also huge.
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On Tuesday, he ordered the Catalan regional police force to do the same, and confiscate any materials related to the vote.
The Cowboys were stunned, and soon afterwards Storm speedster Josh Addo-Carr bolted clear for the opening try.
"It feels like a waste of a season to be honest", Morgan said.
However there were few in the Cowboys side who knew the play was on and Melbourne easily cleaned up before storming home. "But this is one hell of a football team to come back from the disappointment of previous year and continually do the hard work and continually do the hard things that make you a good footy team".
That's thanks in large to his powerful 92kg frame, which means Morgan is just as capable of powering through the defensive line as he is of throwing a pinpoint flat ball to send a teammate through a gap.
It has also been good for the Queenslanders that they have been playing virtual finals every week for the past month. But this was different.
The Cowboys desperately needed to be first to score in the second half against the competition's best front-runners and they got some help from the Storm, who handed over five straight penalties through offside and ruck infringements to camp the Cowboys in attacking range and allow Te Maire Martin to slice through. The Bega-born prop had previously lost three grand finals, but it looked like that Storm magic dust had finally seeped into his skin. It was 24-6 after 63 minutes and the Cowboys' dream was effectively over.
Why will the Storm win?