NRL Grand Final: Penrith Panthers (1) V Melbourne Storm (2) – Sydney Cricket Ground – Sunday, October 25 – 21.30NZT
What a strange old year it’s been. While I don’t want to dwell on what the rest of the world seems to be struggling with, and what’s still lingering in and around Australia and New Zealand, it’s certainly brought some challenges that have been incredibly unique to continue to make live sport continue.
We’ve been treated to an outstanding season of National Rugby League, despite all this, and it just shows what we’re capable of when we all put our minds to it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the best two teams are playing in this years Telstra Premiership Grand Final, which is a testament to the determination of the two sides that have made it this far.
Penrith’s success is just like Covid-19, it’s unprecedented.
17 wins in a row, and only one loss and one draw to their name in 2020 is a massive credit to the operation Ivan Cleary is running at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
With the second-youngest side in the NRL, they’re sporting ridiculous amounts of confidence.
The meteoric rise of youngster Stephen Crichton.
Nathan Cleary playing like a seasoned veteran with a ball on a string.
James Fisher-Harris and Viliame Kikau who have just destroyed blokes over the last few months.
Api Koroisau, who would surely be the buy of the year, and Isaah Yeo – who has led them around the park in staunch fashion.
There’s so much to like about the Penrith Panthers and the year they’ve had this season. Especially considering they didn’t even make the top eight last year.
They are plenty of players who make up this Panthers Grand Final side who have come through with plenty of success in the lower grades together, so they know each other’s games inside out, and they know how to win. That’s a key ingredient.
Success is something that is culture-based, and you can see it brewing strongly in Penrith.
And in terms of success, you can’t go past what the Storm have achieved as an NRL team.
Making the Grand Final four out of the last five years is such an impressive feat and the strongest indicator of the stronghold that Melbourne has on rugby league despite being a strong AFL state.
In typically humble fashion, the outcome of Cameron Smith’s career is still yet to be decided – however as he was carried off Suncorp Stadium’s hallowed turf last week, that spoke volumes to me.
Ryan Papenhuyzen at the back in only his second season has absolutely blitzed defenders in his wake with unparalleled speed.
Brenko Lee was set to play park football this year and is now lining up in the centres in a grand final.
Jahrome Hughes was once a fullback and is seriously considered a top-five halfback in 2020.
Plus the form of the Bromwich brothers, Christian Welch, and the hectic cheese Brandon Smith – there’s hardly any room for improvement in these blokes.
Melbourne just oozes depth. Whatever is in the water in Victoria seems to be doing the trick.
Craig Bellamy is the one coach I’d love to play under. I know he works his players damn hard, but it reaps success and that’s something you can’t deny.
These two sides have played each other 35 times, with the Storm absolutely dominating, winning in 26 of those clashes.
I’m really looking forward to seeing just how this game will play out.
Penrith’s form is going to help them in such a big way. Watching them play you can see just how much confidence they have in each other to get the job done. No matter what the scoreline shows, Penrith will do everything they can to get the job done.
Melbourne is masters are controlling a match. Whether it’s a quick play the ball, or a dominant tackle, the Storm makes their intentions clear with physical dominance.
The halves combinations of Luai and Cleary against Munster and Hughes is thrilling. Cleary is the dominant half, who runs Penrith’s ship. Luai offers a lot of ball running and creativity.
When Munster demands the ball, he gets it. His vision for the game is so strong, and with Hughes spotting gaps, and playing smart football – they work so well in tandem.
Both forward packs are monsters. From the first kick-off, and that initial contact, that’ll just be the starting point of an impressive arm wrestle.
There won’t be anything left on the field, so expect this game to be lifted to another level.
We’re also so aware of just what the backs on both sides can create. Josh Addo-Carr in what looks to be his last Storm game is so hard to track down, and when Mansour is close to the line, he’s so hard to stop.
I’m really struggling to find a weak spot in these two teams, and that’s what makes this game even more exciting.
I’m going to tip Felise Kaufusi to be the first try scorer, but I think it’ll be a strong second half from Penrith that will see them prevail 24-18.
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