Back to back to back premiers in the NRL don’t come around all that often.
In fact there’s a reason it hasn’t been done since 81,82,83 when the Parramatta Eels last did it, because its so bloody hard to accomplish!
Especially in today’s game with a strict and stringent emphasis on the salary cap.
The Penrith Panthers are on the verge of greatness. To be where they are today after the dissection of their roster of the past several seasons is quite astonishing. Capewell, Burton, Koroisau, Kikau, Ciraldo and Webster all gone in the past 3 seasons with Crichton and Leniu leaving next season. All a by-product of success.
Obviously to get to where they have gotten, the Panthers have a team all on the same page, and a system that affords the next man up not too intimidated when given the chance to perform.
A lot of plaudits must also be given to coach Ivan Cleary. When the above mentioned Ciraldo (defence coach) and Webster (attacking coach) left last season, a lot of eyes were on the head coach. And from an outsider looking in it would appear that Ivan hasn’t just answered the challenge, he has actually gone next level, from strength to strength as a mentor of men.
As for his charges?! Where do you start? Lets start from number 1.
Dylan Edwards. At time of writing (Tuesday arvo) the Dally M player of the year hadn’t been named, Edwards must be close. What a season!
2. Sunia ‘Tito’ Turuva. Again would have to count himself unlucky not to be awarded the Dally M rookie of the year.
3. Izack Tago. Hasn’t played a lot of footy in the past couple of months but you get the feeling Sunday could be his day.
4. Stephen Crichton. The best centre in the game and will be sorely missed next year when he heads to the Bulldogs.
5. Brian To’o. Another incredible season from the ever reliable Mt Druitt messiah.
6. Jarome Luai. Will he stay or will he go? Whatever his decision it comes with the total blessing of every Panther fan and player. For the record I think ‘Romey” will remain a Panther.
7. Nathan Cleary. The game’s best player who has had the ball on a string of late. My tip for the Clive Churchill medal.
8. Moses Leota. Moses is getting better and better each season, his combination with the “Fish” a highlight.
9. Mitch Kenny. No Api no worries. He often sets the defensive standards in the best defensive team in the competition.
10. James Fisher-Harris. The Alpha male of his forward pack who demands respect whenever he takes the field.
11. Scott Sorensen. One of the Panthers best ever buys in my opinion, and like a glass of red wine he is getting better with age.
12. Liam Martin. Penrith’s number 1 “attack dog”, makes it personal whenever he takes the field.
13. Isaah Yeo. His past month of footy is up there with some of the best of his career.
14. Jack Cogger. Has filled the utility 6,7,9 spot with aplomb.
15. Lindsay Smith. One of the finds of this season’s premiership, fantastic season.
16. Spencer Leniu. ALWAYS makes a difference when he takes the field. and you also ALWAYS know when he’s come off the bench for action.
17. Luke Garner/ Zac Hosking. At the time of writing we were still not sure of the Panthers final 17 but whomever is given the last spot on the bench out of these two will be pinching themselves after both arriving in Penrith in the off-season with just the hope of making the top grade. A grand final birth must be a mind-blowing prospect for both men.
And what of the Panthers opponents this Sunday the Brisbane Broncos?
After finishing last three years ago in 2020, then 14th in 2021, and 9th last season, their turnaround to be Grand Finalists this year has been profound.
Like we did with the Panthers players, lets take a look at the Broncos team’s rise from the rugby league ashes.
1. Reece Walsh. the games new rockstar who has added an enormous amount of potency to the Broncos backline.
2. Jesse Arthars. Must think its an April fools joke to find himself on the wing in the biggest day of his sporting life.
3. Kotoni Staggs. Playing the best footy of his career.
4. Herbie Farnworth. Went down with an injury at training on Tuesday, the Broncos need him to play if they have any chance of victory.
5. Selwyn Cobbo. An out and out athlete who must be watched closely.
6. Ezra Mam. One of the most improved players in the comp and the five-eighth of the year.
7. Adam Reynolds. The architect behind Brisbane’s rebuild.
8. Tom Flegler. An origin forward who will mix it with the Panthers big boys.
9. Billy Walters. For mine the competition’s most improved player.
10. Payne Haas. The juggernaut MUST be stopped.
11. Kurt Capewell. Ex Panther who has had a calming influence on the baby Broncos.
12. Jordan Riki. Another solid season from an ultra reliable forward.
13. Pat Carrigan. Fantastic player with a massive motor. His match up with Yeoy will be epic!
14. Tyson Smoothy. A good foil for Walters when he takes the field.
15. Brendan Piakura. Very reliable backrower with great hands and hits a great hole.
16. Kobe Hetherington. Always does a job for Kevvy Walters.
17. Keenan Palasia. Has been a stand-out off the bench for the Broncos of late.
Whichever way you look at this game, it is the battle of the competition’s two best teams of 2023. This is the first time since 1966 that the same 2 teams have played both the first and the last game of the season. Its also the first time since 2005 we have a team from NSW and one from QLD vying for premiership honours.
And maybe something to take note of if you’re a Panther fan; In their past 73 games they have lost JUST ONCE when in front at halftime. WOW! That one loss was a state of origin affected game this year in round 16 against the Cowboys. So if the Panthers are leading at halftime history will tell you they are in a very nice position!
Score Penrith 28 Brisbane 14
First Try Scorer Dylan Edwards
Clive Churchill Medalist Nathan Cleary.
LETSSS GOOOOO PANTHERSSSSS!!!!!
If you’re looking for a new car, go see my mate Toby at Sinclair Hyundai.
See you at the game!
MG (random Westie) OAM