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The most wonderful time of the year, and it’s going to be a scorcher. As the curtains fall on the Wahs’ season and Bellamy’s Storm trip just short of the line, the stage is now set for a showdown of epic proportions. The Panthers, clinical in dismantling the Storm, exude the air of a dynasty that shows no signs of fading. Eyeing off the three-peat, Cleary’s Panthers chase an accolade not seen in 40 years since the Parramatta domination of the early 80s (pre Hindy of course).
So the question that looms large: Can even the best version of the Brisbane Broncos crack the formidable Panthers outfit?
It was only back in 2020 that Bronco’s staff were pictured collecting wooden spoons littered across their training field, a brutal response to their ‘worst season ever’ under Seibold. Now, just three years later, Walter’s Broncos are on the brink of a triumphant return to the NRL grand final stage, aiming to secure their first title since 2006.
With fullback Reece Walsh leading the offensive charge, the Broncos left the Warriors in tatters (despite a questionable forward pass) with an incredible 11 line breaks and 23 offloads in their recent victory. Their ability to maintain an 82 percent completion rate while executing such a dynamic offensive strategy is what they will need to replicate this Sunday night if they hope to stand a chance.
Brisbane Second-rower Kurt Capewell – who won the 2021 premiership with the Penrith side – said that offloading will be a vital tool to beat his former club.
“Their defence is the best in the comp and we will be trying everything in our kit bag to try and break it apart.
“Offloading is instinctive. It is off the cuff. That is how we like to play. It’s our Broncos brand of footy and these guys are great at it”, said Capewell.
I like the idea of Souths fans kicking themselves right now. When their captain, chief playmaker, and goal kicker Adam Reyonolds was shown nothing but disrespect by low-balling him with a one-year contract extension, the relationship between the player and the club was all but tarnished. Now, we will see the 2023 Dally M Captain of the Year put his leadership on display this Sunday as he pilots a side that he has since “fallen deeply in love with.”
In a relatively youthful side, Brisbane will be looking heavily to Coach Walters to put his foot down and tell them what needs to be done. But just because they’re young doesn’t mean they lack experience when it comes to crunch time, with Patrick Carrigan, Selwyn Cobbo, Kurt Capewell, Reece Walsh and Thomas Flegler all seeing Origin victory earlier this year with the maroon on their backs.
However, with this comparison we simply glance over at the Panthers camp to see similar Blues representation in Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin.
You only had to watch the Dally M this past Wednesday night to confirm it. It was hard to focus on much more than Nicho Hynes in that blue velvet suit (and without a date, I might add). But if you were able to pay attention beyond that, you would have noticed that half the 2023 Team of the Season consisted of Brisbane and Penrith stars.
We see a fierce matchup in the centres with a young Herbie Farnworth set out to neutralise Penrith’s Izack Tago who made his return from a pec injury last week. If Farnworth’s quad doesn’t prove troublesome, we’ll see him up at the line hitting his opposite centre hard and often.
Yeo, as always, was huge for Penrith last week, finishing up with 26 runs for 210m. Yeo expertly links up with Cleary and Luai in the centre of the park, setting up Penrith’s attacking plays and we’ll be sure to see a lot more of this come Sunday evening.
While we may often hear the line ‘the biggest grand final in recent history’ thrown around every September, with stats like these heading into Sunday night, it’s hard to argue against this one.
I think what will drive Penrith home is their chemistry. The familiarity within the side, coupled with their seamless defensive efforts, I think may just push them over the line to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy for a third year in a row.
Panthers to win
Brian To’o – first, second or third try scorer
Selwyn Cobbo – anytime try scorer