Well, here we are, arguably the biggest game on the NRL calendar Grand Final day. Now this year’s Grand final will be even more different than last years was also due to Covid-19 with the game as I said earlier in the week in one of my other blogs being played in Brisbane for the first-time ever.
In previous years, grand final day has included the State Championship Grand Final between the winners of the QLD Cup and NSW Cup and the NRLW Grand Final yet due to the pandemic the NSWRL had to once again cancel the NSW Cup this year while due to boarder closures the NRLW has be postponed till early next year effectively giving us two NRLW competitions in 2022.
One way they are still attempting to make a full day out of the event is to have the QLD Cup preliminary finals on the same day as the lead in events and those games are Wynnum vs Tweed Heads and Norths Devils vs Burleigh Bears. Now I am unable to provide any further information on those fixtures as I have not watched any of the action from up there but being preliminary finals, it should be the toughest games of the season if any of the reserve grade comps are anything to go by usually. Also, both games are to be broadcast live on 9 and Fox Sports.
Now though let’s get stuck into what we are more than likely all watching for this Sunday night and that is the 2021 NRL Grand final between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This will be the 4th encounter between the sides this year with Penrith winning the first 2 games while Souths upset the Panthers in week 1 of the Finals. The big issues in regards to the game stem from historical points with the teams and trying to get the monkey off the back from both fronts.
For Souths it all goes back to the first clash off the season in round 11 at Apex Oval in Dubbo where Penrith beat Souths 56-12 which was the Rabbits second worse loss of the season having also lost 50-0 against the Storm at Stadium Australia in Homebush in round 9. With Souths having conceded 50 points in 2 games they will attempt to become the first team in NRL history to become Premiers in the same season.
For Penrith on the other hand, we have their coach Ivan Cleary attempting to win his first Premiership as a coach and in the process limit the links some people are drawing between him and Brian Smith in regards to having the inability to get their sides over the line in the one game a season where it counts. Given Smith lost all 4 of his coaching appearances in Grand Finals (1992,1993,2001,2010) Cleary isn’t that far behind having already lost 2 Grand Finals as a coach (2011 and 2020) so I am beginning to think if he doesn’t win this one, he will also always be a brides made when it comes to the big dance.
But now as I attempt to dissect the game and give my prediction let’s take a look at how both teams were announced earlier in the week and how their season stacks up beginning with the Penrith Panthers, 2 Premierships, entered in 1967.
Season 2021 Played 24 Won 21 Lost 3 Drew 0 Points 44 Scored 676 Conceded 286 Diff 390
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Liam Martin 18. Brent Naden 19. Mitch Kenny 20. J’maine Hopgood 21. Charlie Staines
The Panthers come into this game on the back of a huge victory against the Melbourne Storm in a fixture I’m positive 90% of NRL fans believed would be the Grand Final, however everyone had to settle for it a week earlier. While it was a huge win for the Mountain Men, they lost their mid-season signing in Tevita Pangai Junior to an injury in what is a huge blow to their forward rotation.
Two other concerns are Nathan Cleary who still appears to be playing with discomfort from his shoulder injury he sustained earlier in the season and will in my mind (which has no medical experience so take this next point with a grain of salt) need surgery at the end of the season and he may well have put it off to get to this point in the season. Brian To’o also still to me seems to not be as destructive as he has been throughout the season and appears to still be struggling with the ankle injury, he may have picked up in the back end of the season that has taken a massive chunk of his power away from his kick returns which in turn can also put the pressure on fullback Dylan Edwards who himself started the week in a moon boot.
Now we can shift our attention to the oldest team in Australia that being the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Premierships 21, Founded in 1908, Readmitted 2002.
Season 2021 Played 24 Won 20 Lost 4 Drew 0 Points 42 Scored 775 Conceded 453 Diff 322
Rabbitohs team: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Mark Nicholls 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Benji Marshall 15. Jacob Host 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Jai Arrow 18. Taane Milne 19. Patrick Mago 20. Braidon Burns 21. Jed Cartwright
South Sydney head into the Grand Final after a completely dominant performance against the Manly Sea-Eagles last week in a game that appeared over by half time. Once again, the Rabbitohs appeared a much more complete team even with the absence of Latrell Mitchell who is still serving a 6 week suspension after his dangerous hit on former team mate Joseph Manu.
The real injury concern for Souths appears to be half Adam Reynolds who is carrying a groin injury into the game much in the same vein as last week’s preliminary final victory over Manly, but given that these are the only 2 teams left any slight injury like this even though he was one of the players of the game last week will be scrutinized more severely than at any other point throughout the season.
Now yes, we had what appeared to be this year’s Grand Final last week I truly feel like this will be an even better contest between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Souths road through the Finals has seen them beat Manly in the preliminary final after earning the week off after defeating their opponent in the big game the Panthers.
The Panthers on the other hand have gone the long way to the Grand Final and have taken advantage of the top 4 bonus of a second chance by beating local rivals Parramatta in the semifinals in what some thought was a controversial win and then surviving against the Storm in the preliminary final last Saturday.
As stated earlier this is the 4th game between the two teams this season with the Panthers winning 2 while Souths have just the one win coming a month ago. The big sticking point on attempting to pick a winner in this game for me is twofold, never say never and you have to lose one to win one. Those phrases are integral to my making my decision and I will now explain.
Souths are the oldest team in the land, have always been history makers and have that chance again on Sunday night by being the first team to win the Grand Final after conceding 50 points in a game in the same season and what makes that even bigger is that one of the teams to score 50 on Souths this year was none other than the Panthers. On the other hand, you have Penrith who have the unfortunate experience of losing last year’s decider but that could hold them in good stead for this year’s big game by having the memories of what went wrong 12 months ago still burnt in the back of their brains.
Prediction Penrith 17 – South Sydney 18