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2021 NRL Grand Final Preview, Panthers Vs Rabbitohs

Christopher Rooney previews the all-Sydney 2021 NRL Grand Final between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Date: Sunday October 3, Time: 7:30pm

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

Team Changes

IN: Charlie Staines, J’maine Hopgood, Mitch Kenny, Moses Leota


OUT: Tevita Pangai Junior

Rabbitohs Team

1. Blake Taaffe
2. Alex Johnson
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

Team Changes

IN: Braidon Burns, Jed Cartwright, Taane Milne


OUT:

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Panthers

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The Panthers are back in the grand final after a tough and brutal victory against the Storm.

They went the long way around to the grand final and a number of players will be carrying injuries heading into the match.

The only change to the starting side is Tevita Pangai Junior is out with MCL damage to his knee and will be on the sidelines for a month.

Moses Leota returns to the starting side after missing last week with a calf injury which still remains.

Dylan Edwards (foot injury), Brian To’o (ankle injury), James Fisher-Harris (knee injury), and Nathan Cleary (shoulder injury) all carry injuries heading into the grand final.

The Panthers remain as the best defensive side this season and will no doubt be looking to defend their way to victory on Sunday.

Rabbitohs

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After a convincing and dominating win against the Sea Eagles last Friday, the Rabbitohs are back in the grand final.

They have named the same 17 players from last week’s match with the only concern being Adam Reynolds still carrying a groin injury.

No doubt he will play but will be limited with his kicking which will see Cody Walker doing the bulk of the kicking this Sunday.

Also, a call is to be made if Reynolds will kick or if he will hand the goal-kicking duties to Blake Taaffe.

PREVIEW

Wayne Bennett has done it again: his 10th grand final appearance with three clubs.

Many believed we were in for a repeat of last year’s grand final, but the Rabbitohs made a huge statement in the first week of the finals to claim a spot in the grand final this year. in a season for the Rabbitohs where no-one was doubting their attack, but their defense was one that many had concerns about.

It was sometimes a major concern, when they conceded more than 50-plus points in two matches in a fortnight against the Storm and the Panthers.

After their final major loss against the Panthers, the Rabbitohs regrouped and finished the season as a top-four team in defense, only giving up 16 points a game.

Whatever Bennett said to them after round 11 has clearly worked and they are now only 80 minutes away from claiming their 22nd premiership, but a lot is still needed to be done if they want to defeat the Panthers.

For the Panthers, they got their revenge against the Storm last week, defeating them in a more brutal game than what it was in the Eels match.

They are battered and bruised, but also still hurting from last year, and that is a major force for them heading into Sunday.

There are so many interesting and exciting matchups in the grand final this year: Cleary versus Reynolds, Lui versus Walker, To’o versus Johnston, Murray versus Yeo, and just both forward packs up against each other.

It’s a battle that will start in the middle but ultimately be won by either Clearly or Walker: a matchup we are all looking forward to.

KEY STAT

Both sides have faced each other 36 times in the NRL era, with the Panthers winning 20 times.

This will be the fourth match between the two sides this season with the most recent match seeing the Rabbitohs defeating the Panthers in a close match the first week of the finals.

PREDICTION

The match itself will be great to watch but who can forget the battle between the coaches? Last time Ivan Clearly was put in his place by Bennett, something so many have experienced.

It’s a fascinating grand final to watch this year; both sides face major pressure and also major repercussions if they do not win.

For the Panthers, they cannot afford to lose back-to-back grand finals; the major unwanted attention will be brutal for them if they cannot win. All the success in the regular season for the past two years will mean nothing if they cannot win on Sunday. Also, the fact Cleary will be coaching his 370th match this Sunday and yet to taste premiership success is massive.

For the Rabbitohs, it’s a lot more emotion for them than the Panthers I believe. It’s Reynolds’ last match in the famous red and green jersey: he’s a Rabbitohs junior and was a proud supporter growing up. He will ride the emotions and know that he will be able to lead his beloved Rabbitohs team out for one more grand final. There is also the fact that Bennett is coaching his final match for the Rabbitohs as he heads back home to Brisbane, which will no doubt give the playing group even more motivation to send out the supercoach with his eighth premiership.

But when it’s all said and done it’s going to come down to either Cleary or Walker to win the match with a big play for their respective teams and I feel that the Rabbitohs may just be the one to come out on top. Good luck to both sides and may the best team win.

Rabbitohs 1-12.

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