So here we are, the 2022 NRL Grand Final and what a match-up we have, as the mighty Penrith Panthers look to defend their title against a fired up Parramatta Eels, desperately keen to end their premiership drought.
Good luck with your tip.
Sunday, October 2
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Jaeman Salmon Reserves: 18. Sean O'Sullivan 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. J'maine Hopgood 21. Sunia Turuva 22. Chris Smith
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Bailey Simonsson 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali'i 13. Ryan Matterson Bench: 14. Nathan Brown 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore Reserves: 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Makahesi Makatoa 20. Tom Opacic 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell
Verdict: The big dance is here and the Parramatta Eels are stepping onto the floor for the first time since 2009. Unfortunately their dance partners are playing in their third-straight Grand Final, and carry with them all that experience and confidence.
This western suburbs derby brings with it a load of passion, with Eels fans harbouring some bitterness, if not envy, over the success of their little brothers. This represents only the third opportunity the Eels have had for premiership glory since 1986 and standing in their way are the cocky upstarts from the foot of the mountains.
These two teams have met three times this year, with the Eels winning the first two, before the Panthers got the better of them on the opening weekend of the finals. That loss consigned the Eels to a tougher route to the first Sunday in October, one which they have taken with impressive resolve. In the past two weeks they have beaten the Raiders and Cowboys to claim their place in the decider.
The Panthers started slowly last week against the Rabbitohs before releasing the hand-brake and powering home to victory. It was an impressive performance with players across the field shining. Halfback Nathan Cleary is in sparkling form and his kicking game will be key to winning the big one. One thing is certain, unlike the Raiders and Cowboys, who combined to kick the ball to Waqa Blake just a couple of times, the Panthers maestro will rain down Steeden-shaped terror on the butter-fingered Eels winger.
The Eels must play the perfect game to upset the Panthers. Any repeat of the sloppy completion rate they produced in the first half against the Cowboys and they will be in for a Sydney Swans-like afternoon. They have to minimise the Panthers' chances, cut down Cleary's time with the ball and play with heightened intensity from start to finish.
At this point in time the Eels have the same chance of winning as the Panthers do. At the end of the 80 minutes on Sunday, sadly, I can only forsee another disappointing day for the legions of blue and gold clad fans.
Tip: Panthers by 16
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.