Jem Nash previews the mouthwatering grand final clash between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm. This is what we have to look forward to.
The Panthers made it a remarkable 17 straight victories in their 20-16 win over the Rabbitohs in the preliminary final. It was a scrappy affair, and a game that the Panthers should have won by a lot more. They struggled to convert a lot of their chances and some poor ball control also cost them at critical times. Isaah Yeo was the game breaker, setting up Dylan Edwards for a crucial try with just over 10 minutes remaining, helping secure the win despite a fast finish from the Bunnies. Despite not performing at their best, the Panthers will come into this clash with plenty of confidence; if they can improve their conversion rate, they will be right in this grand final.
The Storm produced one of the most damaging quarters of footy last week, blowing away the Raiders in the opening 20 minutes, scoring four tries to set up a 30-10 win. Jahrome Hughes was simply outstanding, along with Ryan Papenhuyzen, while Cameron Smith continues to prove why he is one of the greatest to ever lace up the boots. The Storm boast far more experience than the young Panthers as they reach their fourth grand final in the last five years; they will come into this clash with plenty of motivation in what could be Smith’s final game for the club.
1 Dylan Edwards 2 Josh Mansour 3 Brent Naden 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brian To’o 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Tyrone May 15 Kurt Capewell 16 Moses Leota 17 Zane Tetevano 18 Mitch Kenny 19 Dean Whare 20 Matt Burton 21 Spencer Leniu
Viliame Kikau returns from suspension, with Kurt Capewell moving back to the bench and Mitch Kenny dropping out of the side. Brent Naden has been named to start at centre despite being swapped for Tyrone May last week.
1 Ryan Papenhuyzen 2 Suliasi Vunivalu 3 Brenko Lee 4 Justin Olam 5 Josh Addo-Carr 6 Cameron Munster 7 Jahrome Hughes 8 Jesse Bromwich 9 Cameron Smith 10 Christian Welch 11 Felise Kaufusi 12 Kenneath Bromwich 13 Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14 Brandon Smith 15 Tino Faasuamaleaui 16 Dale Finucane 17 Nicho Hynes 18 Tom Eisenhuth 19 Paul Momirovski 20 Tui Kamikamica 21 Ryley Jacks
The Storm are unchanged from their big win over the Raiders.
The Storm have held the wood over the Panthers for the best part of 15 years, with Penrith registering just three wins since 2006. The Panthers have the most recent victory: a 21-14 win over the Storm back in round six, the first win in their remarkable streak.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Cameron Smith vs Api Koroisau
There are so many fascinating battles in this game, with both sides boasting incredible talent right across the park, but it’s hard to go past these two dummy halves. Koroisau is easily the buy of the year and is a massive reason for the Panthers’ success this season. He has been immense in defence all year and his darts out of dummy half are constantly threatening. He is also just one of three Panthers players who have grand final experience, winning a premiership with the Rabbitohs back in 2014.
While Koroisau has one grand final to his name, Smith is preparing for his seventh. At 37 years old, the Storm hooker is still at the top of his game. He was extremely important in last week’s win and he knows what it takes to win big games. His future at the Storm and in the NRL is still yet to be determined, but if they are to take home the trophy on Sunday, he will be a big reason why.
Panthers by two.
Date: Sunday, October 25.
Venue: ANZ Stadium.