Penrith Panthers will go in as hot favourites to win the 2015 Holden Cup when they face Manly Sea Eagles in an “all Sydney” Grand Final at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
When the two teams met in the first week of the finals series it was a convincing win to the Panthers 44-24. This forced the Sea Eagles into two weeks of sudden death footy where they accounted for Wests Tigers 28-22 and upset North Queensland Cowboys 25-24 in Melbourne last Saturday. Penrith easily accounted for New Zealand Warriors by 50-16 in qualifying for the Grand Final last weekend in Brisbane.
In the regular season clashes between the two sides this year it’s been Penrith who’s come out on top. In round six the Panthers were too good 32-16 at Brookvale before winning at Pepper Stadium 42-16 weeks later.
There are a few familiar faces taking part in this game having experienced National Rugby League debuts during the season.
Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic scored twenty tries in twelve appearances in the Holden Cup this season and has made a similar impact at the top level in crossing eight times in nine matches.
Robert Jennings has spent limited time in Penrith’s youth side this season with appearances in both VB NSW Cup and five appearances in the top grade. He was a late inclusion last weekend after there were fears his season was over after a hamstring tear.
Holden Cup coach of the Year Cameron Ciraldo has resisted the temptation to play Nathan Cleary, son of head coach Ivan in the decider. Cleary missed last week’s game through Australian Schoolboys duties where he starred as captain in their 70-24 victory over New Zealand Schoolboys at Suncorp Stadium. Ciraldo backing his same seventeen that thrashed the Warriors.
Penrith are eyeing their second victory in the competition in three years. Their maiden title was inspired by Bryce Cartwright, James Roberts, George Jennings and Reagan Campbell-Gillard. Cartwright has gone and is fast becoming a superstar in the top level with his exceptional ball playing abilities.
Sea Eagles coach Dave Heath also had no hesitation in naming the same squad that won last weekend. Yet to win the Holden Cup prize, Manly’s best chance came in 2008 when then-coach David Penna had the likes of Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jared Waerea-Hargraves and Will Hopoate. All have gone on to make a name for themselves at National Rugby League and representative level.
Kick-off to the Holden Cup Grand Final is at 1:15pm Sydney time (12:15pm Brisbane).
Panthers: 1 Brent Naden (c) 2 Fuimanu Enese 3 Robert Jennings 4 Maliko Filino 5 Dylan Edwards 6 Tyrone May 7 Jarome Luai 8 Oliver Clark 9 Soni Luke (c) 10 Moses Leota 11 James Fisher-Harris 12 Corey Harawira-Naera 13 Reed Izzard. Interchange 14 Kaide Ellis 15 Thomson Tuigimala 16 Paea Pua 17 Jake Ennis
Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic 2 Jesse Bogle 3 Addison Demetriou 4 Jesse Ramien 5 Mitch Thomas 6 William Pearsall 7 Riley Travers (c) 8 Liam Knight 9 Hugh Pratt 10 Jesse Maxwell 11 Luke Garner 12 William Bainbridge 13 Darcy Cox. Interchange 14 Nicholas Hynes 15 James Parker 16 Dallas Koen 17 Moses Noovao-McGreal 18 Jyi Seymour