After 25 rounds of regular season action and three weeks of NRL Finals it finally comes down to this as Wayne Bennett’s South Sydney Rabbitohs go up against Ivan Cleary’s Penrith Panthers in the Grand Final.
The Bunnies have powered their way through the series thus far with their most recent win seeing them dominant Manly in the preliminary finals. Meanwhile, the Panthers brilliantly overcame a mighty Melbourne side to reach a second straight Grand Final.
Both sides have actually met in the play-offs already with the Rabbitohs earning bragging rights after coming away with a win in week one to force the Panthers into the semi-finals rather than going straight to the preliminaries in week three. It was a tough and gritty affair one in which the Souths showed plenty of determination and a top defensive performance to come away with a 16-10 victory. However, when it comes to the Grand Final, bragging rights can count for nothing and you can imagine this superstar laden Penrith side will be out looking for revenge.
Now in terms of history, South Sydney are enshrined in it as they sit as one of the oldest and most successful sides in Australian Rugby League and they will be no doubt be looking to add to their already extensive collection of silverware with their last title coming back in 2014 after a 40-year drought without one. Meanwhile, Penrith may have not the extensive history of titles that Souths have but most recently they have developed into of the league’s powerhouse sides over the last couple of seasons and with the talent they have at their disposal there could be many more Championships to come over the next few seasons.
South Sydney – 21
Penrith – 2
Penrith: Edwards; Crichton, Momirovski, Burton, To’o; Luai, Cleary; Leota, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Capewell, Yeo. Subs: May, Sorenson, Leniu, Martin. Reserves: Naden, Kenny, Hopgood, Staines.
South Sydney: Taaffe; Johnston, Gagai, Graham, Paulo; Walker, Reynolds; Nicholls, Cook, Tatola, Koloamatangi, Su’A, Murray. Subs: Marshall, Host, Burgess, Arrow. Reserves: Milne, Mago, Burns, Cartwright.
NRL Grand Final team news
Plenty of potential injury concerns for the Panthers as several players continue to manage ongoing injuries. There’s no Tevita Pangai Junior for Penrith as an MCL injury suffered against Melbourne last week keeps him out. Dylan Edwards faces a late fitness test yet again with the full-back carrying a planta fascia in his foot for the last couple of months depsite playing, so Charlie Staines and Brent Naden are in the reserves as cover.
Brian To’o has been named to start despite remaining in a brace between games due to managing a syndesmosis injury that required surgery earlier in the season. Front-row duo James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota have taken part in training as they nurse a knee and calf injuries respectively.
The Rabbitohs take solace in naming the same 17-man squad that dispatched of Manly last week. The only issue looks to be half-back Adam Reynolds who has a slight groin problem that seemed to effect his kicking rather than his general running ability against Manly.
Players to watch in NRL Grand Final
Since Latrell Mitchell’s season ended prematurely due to suspension his replacement, Blake Taaffe, has certainly not disappointed and has made the most out of the opportunity presented to him. The South Sydney full-back was hugely impressive in the win over the Sea Eagles last week, securing two line break assists and two try assists on top showing his worth as goal-kicker after taking over the duties from Reynolds. The 22-year-old has proven to be an exciting looking talent and looks threatening anytime he has the ball in his hand. However like many Rabbitohs players this weekend, it will be his first taste of a Grand Final and he will face a stiff test from Nathan Cleary and his high kicks.
The Panthers are side with plenty of exciting talent on that backline and one player who seems to go from strength to strength as each games passes is Stephen Crichton. The 21-year-old is now in his second full season in the NRL and continues to show an elite level of creativity, finishing ability and defensive prowess that make him one of the best young players in the league today. The extremely talented youngster was in top form against Melbourne scoring the opening try whilst also coming up with a huge try-saving tackle.
Key match up in NRL Grand Final
A Grand Final deserves to see great individual player battles, and we certainly get that here as two of the best half-backs in the NRL go one on one with South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds going up against Penrith’s Nathan Cleary. The pair are two of the best number sevens in the league with Reynolds being the glue that holds the South Sydney spine together with his goal-kicking, general game management and ball playing making him a vital component to his side’s success. Meanwhile, Cleary has quickly become the Panthers’ talisman as the 23-year-old’s brilliant all-round skill set not only makes him one of the best half-backs in the league but one of the best performers in the entire sport.
Sunday, October 3 – 9.30am (UK time) – Suncorp Stadium
READ MORE: Dream XIII of NRL players off-contract