Australia

Pitch invader’s wild on-field act as bunker buries Eels

Mitchell Moses and Nathan Cleary. Picture: Jonathan Ng

A pitch invader ripped the advertisement off the goal-post pads as play continued at the opposite end of the field.

The man – in his 30s – ripped the right pad free and attempted to rip apart the other pad on the southern end of the field as he evaded security.

Eventually he was escorted from the field by security as play continued.

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It tooks minutes for staff to put the goal-post pad back together. – Michael Carayannis

56TH MINUTE: SIVO’S HORROR, EDWARDS CHANNELS SATTLER

When it’s not your night, it’s not your night.

Parramatta have grimly defended, been on the rough end of a couple of 50-50 calls and been physically battered by Penrith.

But they’ve not made many mistakes. Until now.

With the tryline begging, and the ball in the hands of their most explosive runner – Maika Sivo – Eels fans rose to their feet desperate for something to cheer about.

Sivo stepped inside the defence and needed only to fall over the tryline, only to have the ball slip from his grasp under pressure from Penrith’s Stephen Crichton.

That’s a brutal error, on a brutal night.

Two minutes later, Dylan Brown comes up with his own version of the Scott Sattler tackle – bundling Bailey Simmonson into touch with a phenomenal defensive play to nullify a smart piece of work from Reed Mahoney to put Simmonson away.

Simmonson now looks done for the night, leaving the field with what appears a rib injury.

What a tackle.

And it leads to the game-sealing try – if that hadn’t already happened – with Charlie Staines crossing out wide as Yeo goes to Cleary, and onto Edwards, who puts the winger across.With 20 minutes remaining, Penrith leads 28-0 and the champagne is no longer on ice.

47TH MINUTE: TO’O CLAIMS CONTROVERSIAL SECOND

Brian To’o goes over for his second – and it looked as though the video referee may intervene and strip the try for an obstruction.

Viliame Kikau’s decoy run thunders into Mitchell Moses and the star halfback appeals to the referee.

But, to the surprise of the legends in the Channel 9 commentary team, it is ruled that Moses made a ‘defensive decision’ to tackle Kikau and the try stands.

“All year that has been a no-try,” says a mystified Andrew Johns in commentary.

Can Parramatta fight back in this contest? It seems a pipe dream at this stage.

Because they’ve been absolutely battered from pillar to post in almost every facet of the game.

And if you want a stat that highlights just how one-sided this battle has been – have a go at this one.

Brian To’o – on his own – outran the entire Eels’ pack in the first half.

LUAI ACT OF FOUL PLAY MISSED

Was this one missed by the match officials?

Eagle-eyed social media types have picked up a suspicious incident involving Penrith star Jarome Luai – where he appears to launch a kick near the ruck.

Channel 9 showed no further replays, making it impossible to deduce whether Parramatta’s Isaiah Papalii was the intended target of Luai’s boot, or whether he was looking to plant his foot on the mark where the tackle was being made.

Luai has engaged in a running battle with referee Ashley Klein and the touch judges, despite Penrith’s rampant try-scoring start to the grand final, which looks like it will put pressure on Manly’s 40-0 win over Melbourne as the biggest grand final victory in history.

HALFTIME: PENRITH HAS ONE HAND ON TROPHY

Wow. That was an absolute masterclass from Penrith.

It’s 18-0, and to be honest, that feels generous to Parramatta because that was an incredible onslaught from the defending premiers.

What is most remarkable is that the Eels haven’t played especially poorly. They’ve made just two errors, and simply haven’t had enough possession to trouble Penrith in any way, shape or form.

Penrith scored early through Stephen Crichton, enjoyed more than 60 per cent of possession, scored again through the unstoppable Brian To’o, and hammered Mitchell Moses split-seconds after every kick that was sent skyward.

And then they appeared to break the spirits of the mostly Parra-heavy sell-out crowd with a Scott Sorensen grand final delivery.

Scott Sorensen goes over for Penrith’s third try. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty
Scott Sorensen goes over for Penrith’s third try. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty

From 18-0 down, you’d say the Eels require a miracle. Did Parramatta Jesus make it to Accor Stadium tonight? His services are required.

Just about the only thing which didn’t go to plan for the Panthers? Some genuine highway robbery that denied Viliame Kikau a try late in the half.

Kikau couldn’t have gone closer to scoring in his Panthers farewell – with a guaranteed try knocked from his grasp by Waqa Blake.

Kikau had latched onto a Jarome Luai grubber, producing a bit of fancy footwork himself, and looked certain to capitalise before Blake intervened.

28TH MINUTE: TRYTIME!

That’s three tries in little more than 15 minutes, and this time it is Scott Sorensen who reaps the rewards, on the back of a delightful Nathan Cleary grubber.

Pressure, pressure, pressure. Penrith is applying all of it. And Parramatta are barely in the contest at this point.

From about the 10th minute of this game, Penrith have been strangling their opponents out of the grand final.

They spent five minutes battering the Eels’ defensive line, with repeat sets – and six-agains – the only ways for Parramatta to keep them out.

But there was no stopping Cleary and Sorensen, who push the lead out to 18-0 after 29 minutes.

Parramatta need something of a miracle to stem the bloodflow here. Nathan Brown – the hired heavy picked to rattle Cleary – is on the bench.

But it might be hard for Brown to rattle anyone if the game is over by the time he gets out there.

18TH MINUTE: PANTHERS RUNNING RIOT

This is ominous for Parramatta – as Brian To’o charges over for Penrith’s second with brute force.

Viliame Kikau runs a hard decoy line and sucked in enough of Parramatta’s defence to create space out to the left, and from there it’s a simple catch-and-pass which ends up with To’o barging over the top of Clint Gutherson, who’d come across in cover defence.

But more than the scoreboard – which is starting to look concerning for long-suffering Eels fans, at 10-0 – the biggest issue for Brad Arthur is the effort areas and the gaps opening up around the field.

Penrith went the length of the field in that set, with Dylan Edwards making a mockery of the Eels’ kick defence to start a monster set.

Is last week’s energy-sapping win in Townsville, and the 85% humidity it was played in, starting to take its toll?

Nathan Cleary missed the sideline conversion – but was given a second chance to make the score 12-0 when Penrith were awarded a penalty after a Gutherson drop-out sailed over the sideline.

Parramatta are hanging on for dear life right now.

“(Possession) will turn, but they need to hang in until it turns. And it turns from hard work,” says league legend Andrew Johns.

Panthers players celebrate scoring. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty
Panthers players celebrate scoring. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty

11TH MINUTE: The Panthers are IN – with Stephen Crichton notching the first try of the match.

And that’s a devastating early blow, considering how physical the start to this match has been.

Ultimately it’s quite a soft defensive effort, with Penrith spreading the ball to the right and Crichton bursting through the tackle of Dylan Brown and then sidestepping Clint Gutherson.

Cleary converts, to put Penrith 6-0 ahead.

Already, it had appeared Penrith were taking this game to the place they love it the most: the grind.

They’re winning the physical contest and slowly starting to dominate the field position battle.

Their best attacking raid had finished with Maika Sivo snatching an intercept – and on the back of that play, Parramatta attempted a surprise tactic.

Dylan Brown kicked early and deep for halves partner Mitchell Moses, who is narrowly beaten to the ball by Brian To’o, but that’s a play that indicates the Eels are willing to try the unexpected tonight.

They’ll need to, as they’re now playing from behind.

GUS GOULD BRUSHED BY NINE

It was a commentary changing of the guard as Channel Nine dropped a grand-final bombshell of their own by axing Phil Gould in favour of Queensland coach Billy Slater for the trademark pre-match address.

And the free-to-air giant continued to surprise, hauling Parramatta legend Peter Sterling out of retirement for a cameo call of his beloved Eels in the 2022 NRL grand final against the Panthers at Accor Stadium.

For the best part of two decades, the iconic Gould has been the big gun of Nine’s big-match coverage. The Last Word was his word. The master orator became famous for his pre-match State of Origin addresses and they were so good, so spine tingling, Gould’s one-man show was soon replicated in the centre of Accor Stadium on NRL grand final day.

But just when you expected to see Gould appear under the posts for his stirring, Churchillian address, it was Slater who took centre stage.

Kaboom. It was akin to batting after Bradman.

Slick and smart, Slater, clearly stamped as the long-term poster boy of Nine’s coverage, held his own. The Maroons mentor looked nervous, and his address lacked the sense of theatre that Gould has a masterful knack of whipping up, but there were no major gaffes as he delivered his maiden The Last Word.

Slater then produced a Gus-like walk across the turf, trying to engage the viewer without possessing quite the same pomp or authority as Gould. – Peter Badel

5TH MINUTE: Five minutes in, and this has been a bruising in encounter

Reed Mahoney has twice hit Nathan Cleary following his kicks – and the Panthers skipper took exception to the treatment.

Penrith return fire at the end of Parramatta’s first set, with Mitchell Moses put on his backside following heavy contact from Viliame Kikau.

This has been a physical opening few minutes. Was it ever going to be different?

Cleary has already launched one of his terrifying wobbling bombs, which was expertly taken care of by Clint Gutherson.

But surely it won’t be long before those floaters start heading the way of Waqa Blake?

7.33PM – EELS, PANTHERS EXPLODE

We’re on!

Parramatta have easily got the crowd support – 36 years of pain has brought fans from all corners of the world, and they’ve all ended up in Homebush.

If the pre-game cheers are anything to go by, the Eels have a 60-40 split – with Penrith walking out to a wall of boos.

In 80 minutes we’ll have a winner. And it will either end a 36-year premiership drought, or confirm the status of one of the modern game’s greatest dynasties.

If Penrith are victorious, it’ll be back-to-back premierships on the back of three straight grand finals. It’ll complete a clean sweep of title wins from SG Ball up, and signals a dominance that should last for another decade.

But Brad Arthur and his Eels present a serious hurdle tonight. Can they do it?

We’re about to find out.

7.00PM – THE WILD EEL READY TO ‘CAUSE CARNAGE’

Nathan Brown is the ‘hired heavy’ who is ready to cause carnage, with Nathan Cleary in his sights – and a couple of premiership champions believe his selection could be a masterstroke.

Brown hasn’t played first grade since round 17 and has been picked for his ability to put pressure on Penrith’s skipper.

It was that strategy which prompted some to speculate the veteran could be promoted to the starting lineup. Brad Arthur resisted those calls, and instead Brown will be used off the bench – perhaps after half an hour, when reinforcements can make their mark.

“He is the hired heavy and his job is to go out there and cause some carnage, particularly at the No.7 (Cleary),” Brisbane legend Corey Parker said on Fox League.

“He’s going to have to get through some big boppers in (Penrith props James) Fisher-Harris and (Moses) Leota, because they know what’s coming.”

Melbourne and Sydney Roosters great Cooper Cronk said Brown brought a hattrick of traits that could have Penrith sweating tonight.

“If you’re going to unsettle Penrith you need physicality, you need ball playing and you need legspeed. He has all three,” Cronk said.

“Wind him up and let him go. He’s got the ability to break it open.”

Added Parker: “It could be a masterstroke. It could come down to one of those bench players coming up with a big play.”

Reagan Campbell-Gillard (L) with recalled star Nathan Brown. Picture: Getty
Reagan Campbell-Gillard (L) with recalled star Nathan Brown. Picture: Getty

6.30PM – CONFIRMED: PARRA, PENRITH PULL LAST-MINUTE SWITCHES

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has stuck with a winning formula and will start Mitch Kenny at hooker, leaving Api Koroisau on the bench for the grand final against Parramatta at Accor Stadium.

Two-time premiership-winner Koroisau was on Tuesday named to start at hooker, but will instead revert to the bench – where he’s started throughout the finals and made an immediate impact after coming on in after about 20 minutes in two Penrith two victories.

Parramatta, meanwhile, also made a late change – but it’s not the one you may have expected.

Rumours had been swirling that firebrand Nathan Brown, recalled after a lengthy absence from first grade, could be injected into Brad Arthur’s starting 13.

But he remains benched, with Marata Niukore earning a promotion – replacing Ryan Matterson at lock.

Matterson and Brown will spearhead the Eels’ punch off the bench, in a bid to combat the impact of Penrith’s interchange.

5.32PM – KNIGHTS SEAL HISTORIC NRLW TITLE

Tamika Upton and Millie Boyle were touted as the Knights in shining armour who could turn around Newcastle’s fortunes after they finished with the wooden spoon in the inaugural season.

And all it look was a few months for the former Broncos to turn despair into silverware as Newcastle went from winless earlier in the year to NRLW champions after they pummelled Parramatta 32-12.

Millie Boyle was immense in leading the Knights to their historic title win. Picture: Getty
Millie Boyle was immense in leading the Knights to their historic title win. Picture: Getty

Boyle and Upton were part of the Broncos juggernaut, helping the Queensland side to titles in 2019 and 2020 before they made the move to the Hunter this season.

They have been an integral part of the turnaround and were again two of their best performers when it mattered most, with Boyle leading from the front with a game-high 235 metres.

But it was Upton who lit things up with a dazzling solo effort to become the leading try-scorer in competition history, while she also set up a four-pointer in the first half.

FOR FULL GRAND FINAL MATCH REPORT CLICK HERE

JT’S GRAND FINAL KICKING FAIL

Retired NRL great Johnathan Thurston suffered a kicking fail when he tried to recreate his famous 2015 grand final conversion attempt.

At halftime of the state championship match between Penrith Panthers and North Devils, Thurston grabbed a kicking tee and set up a kick from the sideline, 20m out.

But, without boots and overdressed for the occasion, Thurston sprayed his kick short and left.

The kick was from the same spot of that from the 2015 decider against Brisbane, when the Cowboys legend’s last-minute conversion attempt to win the game, cannoned back off the post and sent the game into extra time.

WATCH THE VIDEO IN THE PLAYER ABOVE

Retired NRL great Johnathan Thurston suffered a kicking fail when he tried to recreate his famous 2015 grand final conversion attempt.
Retired NRL great Johnathan Thurston suffered a kicking fail when he tried to recreate his famous 2015 grand final conversion attempt.

4.45PM – KNIGHTS CLOSE IN ON MAIDEN NRLW TITLE

Newcastle is 35 minutes away from a maiden NRLW title after a stirring first-half fightback on Sunday.

After underdogs Parramatta struck first through hooker Brooke Anderson just 12 minutes into the contest, it was near one-way traffic from the Knights.

Sustained pressure on the Eels’ tryline finally paid dividends when the Knights hit back through Kiana Takairangi on the right wing five minutes later.

Soon after, the Knights were in front when Emmanita Paki repeated the damage on the left wing.

And when Romy Teitzel burst onto a short ball in the shadows of halftime to score a converted try next to the sticks, the Knights had piled on 14 straight points.

Romy Teitzel celebrates her try with Knights teammates. Picture: Getty
Romy Teitzel celebrates her try with Knights teammates. Picture: Getty

4.25PM: PANTHER’S PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF AS NRL AWAITS

By Paul Crawley

The player tipped to take over from Api Koroisau next year has spoken about his incredible journey of perseverance after starring in Penrith’s smashing State Championship victory.

The powerhouse Panthers kicked off grand final day with a bang after romping to a 44-10 win over Norths Devils in a game where dummy half Soni Luke showcased his outstanding potential.

In a red hot reserve grade side that featured a stack of NRL experience, the Panthers led 18-0 at halftime and never looked in danger as they finished eight tries to two winners.

There was some great performers across the park but none better than dynamic No 9 who is expected to see far more NRL next year when Koroisau departs for Wests Tigers.

Luke has also been selected to represent Tonga at the upcoming World Cup.

He was tremendous setting up three tries and scoring another.

Soni Luke showcased his outstanding potential for for Penrith in the State Championship. Picture: NRL Images
Soni Luke showcased his outstanding potential for for Penrith in the State Championship. Picture: NRL Images

In the forwards J’maine Hopgood was the official man of the match, while Matt Eisenhuth, Preston Riki and Eddie Blacker were all strong.

Out wide flying Fijian Sunia Turuva also showed why he is considered an NRL star of the future with a try and running for a game-high 187m.

The Devils tried hard to compete but were up against it from the outset after going into the final without the experienced halves Tyrone Roberts and Tyson Gamble.

With Koroisau heading to Tigers next season, Luke showed everyone why the Panthers have no need to panic.

The 26-year-old finally made his NRL debut earlier this year after a long tough road where he endured a stack of injuries including three shoulder reconstructions and a torn pectoral.

A local Mt Druitt product, he’s now being rewarded for his persistence.

Luke came through the same junior team James Fisher-Harris and Dylan Edwards, and was a year up from Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.

Like Koroisau, he is incredibly skilful and sharp. But persistence has been his greatest strength.

“It has been a bit of a journey to get here but it makes it a little bit sweeter too,” Luke said.

Soni Luke tipped to take over from Api Koroisau next year for Penrith. Picture: NRL Images
Soni Luke tipped to take over from Api Koroisau next year for Penrith. Picture: NRL Images

“I haven’t really dwelled on it too much. But on the bus today, yeah, just was looking back to this time last year.

“We were in lockdown here in NSW.

“I had nothing going.

“I was kind of begging (NSW Cup coach) Peter Wallace for a train and trial.”

He said while Ivan Cleary has given no guarantees about next year he knew the opportunity was ahead of him.

“I don’t know if the club is getting anyone but me and Mitch (Kenny) will go hard,” he said.

“He has been there and done his trade for the last couple of years.

“I think I have still got a lot of work to do if I want to nail a spot in that 17 but it will be head down bum up when I get back for preseason.”

4.15PM HOW GUTHO WAS DROPPED FOR WEARING SLIPPERS

By Brent Read

If Rob Gutherson had his way, his son Clint would be a Wallaby by now, possibly with a couple of Olympic Games under his belt. Instead, he is preparing to lead Parramatta into the most important game in their recent history.

“He played soccer, he played rugby – he went to England for schoolboys rugby, played for Australia in the Commonwealth (Youth) Games in the Isle of Man,” Rob Gutherson said.

“Then he had to pick league or union. I would have preferred him to play rugby but there was no pathway at the time. I used to play a bit of rugby myself and he seemed better at rugby.

“As it developed, it hasn’t turned out that way.”

Rob Gutherson acknowledges things have worked out for the best. His son has become an NRL star, is about to play in a grand final and has set his young family up for life.

Clint Gutherson was destined to be a star athlete. Picture: Richard Dobson
Clint Gutherson was destined to be a star athlete. Picture: Richard Dobson

Talk to those close to Gutherson and you get the sense he was going to be a star whatever code he chose. The only thing standing in his way has now become arguably his greatest strength – his training ethic.

Geoff Riddington, his coach at the Collaroy Cougars, picks up the story.

“He just did things you didn’t expect,” Riddington said. “He was so natural. You wouldn’t believe it but he wasn’t a real good trainer in those days, I must say. He was a shocker.

“He was captain of my under-13s rugby side and he kept wearing slippers to training. I said ‘mate, you can’t wear those, I am going to have to drop you’.

“He wore them again so I dropped him. His dad Rob Gutho called me up and said Clint wasn’t real happy at getting dropped.

Clint Gutherson, middle, as a rising junior star in 2007.
Clint Gutherson, middle, as a rising junior star in 2007.

“I said the reason he got dropped was because he kept wearing slippers. We put him back as captain and we won the comp. He was that dominating in all aspects of play.

“He was very interesting to coach because he was just so talented.”

While Gutherson was a union star, Manly had also picked up the scent.

He worked his way through the Sea Eagles pathways and seemed destined to spend a long time at the club alongside good mate Jake Trbojevic, only to leave after the Sea Eagles hit salary-cap difficulties.

It was a shock to the system but again, it has possibly been for the best. Gutherson has been a dominant presence for Parramatta and if the Eels are to break their long drought, he will need to be one of the best players on the field.

Clint Gutheron will lead th Eels into battle against Issah Yeo and the Panthers in the NRL grand final. Picture: Grant Trouville/ NRL Photos
Clint Gutheron will lead th Eels into battle against Issah Yeo and the Panthers in the NRL grand final. Picture: Grant Trouville/ NRL Photos

His father insists if his son is nervous, he isn’t showing it. Gutherson and his family, with their two dogs in tow, recently moved back into his parents’ home on Sydney’s northern beaches while they build a dream house of their own.

The Guthersons have effectively split the house in two. The only common area is the kitchen.

It has given Rob a bird’s eye view of his son preparing for the biggest night of his life.

“He is determined, he is loyal, he is naughty, he is good, he is bad. He is just one of those kids, everyone laughs with him. He has never been in trouble, never done anything wrong. I am happy with the way it unfolded. That is the way it was and how it has turned out. It has been good for him and good for his young family.”

3.11PM: PANTHERS’ PERFECT START TO GRAND FINAL DAY

By Paul Crawley

The Penrith Panthers kicked off grand final day with a bang after romping to a 44-10 victory over Norths Devils in the State Championship.

In a red hot reserve grade side that featured a stack of NRL experience showcasing the club’s incredible depth, the Panthers raced to a 18-0 halftime lead and never looked in danger of letting it go as they finished eight tries to two winners.

There was some great performers across the park but none better than dynamic dummy half Soni Luke who is expected to see far more NRL next year when Api Koroisau departs for Wests Tigers.

Luke was tremendous setting up three tries and scoring another in a wonderful individual effort.

Penrith Panthers celebrate a try. Picture: NRL Photos
Penrith Panthers celebrate a try. Picture: NRL Photos

In the forwards J’maine Hopgood was the official man of the match, while Matt Eisenhuth, Preston Riki and Eddie Blacker were all strong.

Out wide flying Fijian Sunia Turuva again showed why he is considered an NRL star of the future with a try and running for a game high 187m.

The Devils tried hard to compete but were up against it from the outset after going into the final without the experienced halves Tyrone Roberts and Tyson Gamble who were out injured.

PLAYER TO WATCH

With Koroisau heading to Tigers next season, Luke showed everyone why the Panthers have no need to panic.

Luke was outstanding out of dummy half with a dominant first half, scoring a fantastic solo try and laying on another with a clever grubber kick for Hopgood.

While he was sin binned for a professional foul in the second half the score was already out to 26-0 at that point, and when he returned he laid on another try with more great work.

The 26-year-old finally made his NRL debut earlier this year against Canberra after a long tough road where he endured a stack of injuries including three shoulder reconstructions and a torn pectoral.

A local Mt Druitt product, he’s now being rewarded for his persistence.

Luke came through the same junior team as the like of James Fisher-Harris and Dylan Edwards, and was a year up from Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, and he looks set for plenty more NRL.

Soni Luke in action for Penrith. Picture: NRL Photos
Soni Luke in action for Penrith. Picture: NRL Photos

POWERHOUSE PANTHERS

In the modern game under salary cap restrictions it is a massive credit to the Panthers how they have largely developed a rugby league powerhouse with such limited outide big name signings.

And the abundance of depth just runs through the grades.

They’d already won the SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup grand finals this season, with the NRL team in its third straight decider.

In the State Championship it was a complete mismatch.

Hopgood (173m), Eisenhuth (128m), Riki (124m) and Blacker (120m) all ran for well over 100m, while in comparison the Devils’ Brendan Paikura had the most with 102m.

The Devils went into the match as the only Queensland team on show on grand final day, but they simply had no answer to the powerhouse Panthers.

The Panthers scored three unanswered first half tries to Hopgood, Luke and Eddie Blacker, and had two others disallowed.

From there they cruised further ahead with early second half tries to John Faiumu and Robert Jennings as the score blew out to 26-0.

J'Maine Hopgood in action for Penrith Panthers. Picture: NRL Photos
J’Maine Hopgood in action for Penrith Panthers. Picture: NRL Photos

DEVILS OUT OF GAS

The Devils had won seven straight to take out their Queensland grand final.

But by the time they turned up at Accor Stadium it was clear they were out of gas.

Skipper Jack Ahearn and his team created plenty of opportunities but too often let themselves down with a crucial mistake.

The finally go on the board with just 15 minutes left in the game when Tony Tumusa crossed with the Panthers a man down with Luke in the bin.

The scored another late through Rashaun Denny.

.

OFFICIAL GRAND FINAL JERSEYS CONFIRMED

By Dean Ritchie

Penrith in black, Parramatta in gold.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the official jumper colours worn by both sides in this evening’s massive NRL grand final.

Penrith has elected against wearing their pink strip and will don the black with white piping.

Given the Panthers had first choice of jersey colour – because they finished higher on the competition ladder — the NRL told Parramatta to wear their gold strip, with blue piping, to ensure there isn’t a clash of colours.

Penrith will wear black shorts and socks while Parramatta will be in blue shorts and socks.

Parramatta will wear their predominantly blue jumper – with gold piping — for the women’s grand final against a Newcastle side electing to don their white strip coupled with red and blue.

Penrith will run out in their pink jumper for the NRL State Cup game against a Norths Devils side who wear light blue jerseys.

Panthers v Eels jerseys for 2022 NRL grand final
Panthers v Eels jerseys for 2022 NRL grand final
Knights v Eels jerseys for NRLW grand final
Knights v Eels jerseys for NRLW grand final
Panthers v North Devils jerseys for State Championship clash.
Panthers v North Devils jerseys for State Championship clash.

2.10PM: STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: PANTHERS PURRING

Grand final day looks like getting off to a super start for the Panthers, with Penrith racking up a big lead at half-time of the State Championship.

The Panthers’ NSW Cup side leads Queensland Cup champions Norths 18-0, with dummy half Soni Luke looking sharp.

1.22PM: BIG BLOW FOR NORTHS AS GF DAY KICKS OFF

Queensland champions and Brisbane Broncos feeder club Norths Devils have suffered a huge injury blow ahead of its State Championship showdown against Penrith which kicks off grand final day at Accor Stadium.

Knights-bound five-eighth Tyson Gamble is the latest casualty for the Devils who had already lost his halves partner Tyrone Roberts and try-scoring machine Brayden McGrady to injury for the Penrith clash.

Tyson Gamble is missing for the Devils though injury. Picture: Getty Images
Tyson Gamble is missing for the Devils though injury. Picture: Getty Images

EELS ARMY BEGIN MARCH TO NRL GRAND FINAL

The blue and gold army has begun its journey to Accor Stadium with around 1000 supporters marching from the Parramatta League’s Club to the train station ahead of the battle of the west.

Chanting “Parra, Parra”, fans made the early start around midday ahead of tonight’s battle of the west between the Eels and Penrith.

SUPERBOOT’S BRUTAL BOMB WARNING FOR JITTERY EEL

By David Riccio and Brent Read

NRL superboot Matt Burton has declared Nathan Cleary boasts a bomb that is more lethal and with greater accuracy than his own.

In a chilling warning to the Eels catchers, including Waqa Blake and Clint Gutherson, Burton has declared Cleary has the unique ability to perfect his virtually impossible to catch floating bombs, from anywhere on the field.

Burton’s insight has emerged as Blake acknowledged Cleary would be targeting him under the high ball in Sunday’s sold-out grand final at Accor Stadium.

“He’s (Cleary) got the floater worked out. He’s been worrying teams with it all year, so I think he’s going to be worrying Parra with it on Sunday, for sure,’’ Burton said.

“He’s got them down-pat.

Nathan Cleary’s kicking game will be crucial to Penrith’s quest for back-to-back titles. Picture: NRL Photos
Nathan Cleary’s kicking game will be crucial to Penrith’s quest for back-to-back titles. Picture: NRL Photos

“He can point them up from any part of the field and land them in the same spot every time.

“He’s more precise than me.

“I’m sure Waqa has been working all week knowing that Nath is going to come out and put a few up. I’m sure he’ll be up for it — but those bombs of Nath’s he can land anywhere, really.

“When I was at Penrith (in 2021), there were a few of us kickers that used to always hang around and put them up. But Nath could put them up and onto the spot he wanted every time, no matter where he was on the field.

“If he wanted to put a floater up to a corner, he would land them there every time.

“The accuracy he has with them is something else.”

Blake, who began his career alongside Cleary at Penrith, knows what is coming.

However, Blake said he isn’t fazed by the aerial raid from Cleary in the premiership decider, despite spilling three Cleary bombs when the two teams last met.

Bulldogs superboot Matt Burton says Cleary’s kicking game is ‘more precise than me’. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Bulldogs superboot Matt Burton says Cleary’s kicking game is ‘more precise than me’. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

“No doubt he’s going to be putting them up for me,’’ Blake said.

“It’s just me and him. I’ve just got to get under it and catch it.

“Nobody kicks it better than he does.

“When Sunday comes, I’ve got to worry about my own game first.

“Being on the wing, I’ve got to be in position at the back on their last tackle, I’ve got to be able to finish opportunities and be on the end of the line in defence.’’

Eels coach Brad Arthur said it was unfair to place the onus of defusing Cleary‘s kick solely on Blake.

He pointed out that kick-pressure from the rest of the Parramatta playing squad before Cleary strikes the ball is paramount.

“The reason why he (Cleary) is a very good player is you can try to limit the damage he can do to you but you can’t stop him,” Arthur said.

“That is what makes these blokes special. They keep finding ways.

Waqa Blake will be a target again for Nathan Cleary’s bombs in the grand final. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Waqa Blake will be a target again for Nathan Cleary’s bombs in the grand final. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“You can find a way to minimize his damage but he will find a way.

“We have a few things we have worked on.

“We are just going to have to keep competing hard, keep turning up for each other.

“The only thing we can control is how we respond to it. If something doesn’t go right, we have to respond in the best possible fashion.”

Panthers winger Charlie Staines has the privileged position of standing on the same side as Cleary and watching the nightmare for the opposition unfold.

Asked for a tip on how he would defuse a Cleary bomb, Staines said simply: “I don‘t know, just watch the ball and do your best.”

NRL GRAND FINAL EXPERT TIPS

It’s here!

NRL Grand Final day has arrived, with Penrith and Parramatta set to compete for rugby league’s biggest prize in a blockbuster decider.

But before the action really kicks off, see who our NRL experts are predicting for all the day’s big moments.

Scroll down for our expert tips on the winner, first try and Clive Churchill Medal.

ANTHONY ALBANESE

Prime Minister

PENRITH by 14

First tryscorer: Clint Gutherson

CC Medal winner: Isaah Yeo

Penrith have been the best side this year and will benefit from GF and origin experience

BRENDAN BRADFORD

Code Sports

PENRITH by 12

First tryscorer: Charlie Staines

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

Feels like Parra played their grand final last week. Meanwhile, even when down by 12 against the Rabbits, the Panthers never felt out of it. Their meeting in the first week of the finals is the blueprint for this one.

MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

News Corp Australia

PENRITH by 10

First tryscorer: Isaah Yeo

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

Even when the Panthers were a little bit off last week, they were still good. If it all comes together again on Sunday, there is no stopping them even if Parramatta play to their best.

PAUL CRAWLEY

News Corp Australia

PENRITH by 8

First tryscorer: Shaun Lane

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

Why? Penrith has been the standout team all year, are fit and fresh and proven on the big stage.

COOPER CRONK

Fox League expert

PENRITH by 18

First tryscorer: Dylan Edwards

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

Brutal and close contest for 60 minutes. Panthers to score multiple late tries and run away with it.

RAY HADLEY

2GB host

PENRITH by 8

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

Parramatta has found form through the semis, but the Panthers will be much better this week – they will take the second-half form against Souths into this game.

MATTY JOHNS

Fox League expert

PENRITH by 8

First tryscorer: Viliame Kikau

CC Medal winner: Nathan Cleary

Best side all year. As favourites, they will bring in a pragmatic approach, going about their processes.

PAUL KENT

NRL 360

PENRITH by 14

First tryscorer: Isaah Yeo

CC Medal winner: Liam Martin

Penrith have been playing at a level above other teams all season. They are fit, surprisingly fresh, which is all they needed to be to ensure another premiership based on that.

FATIMA KDOUH

News Corp Australia

PENRITH by 10

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Nathan Cleary

Penrith know how to win and what it takes to deliver in the big games. Parramatta’s grand final inexperience will hurt them.

TRAVIS MEYN

News Corp Australia

PENRITH by 12

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Nathan Cleary

The Eels have played their hearts out to get to the decider but Penrith are too good a team to let this opportunity slip.

LACHLAN MCKIRDY

Code Sports

PENRITH by 8

First tryscorer: Stephen Crichton

CC Medal Winner: Isaah Yeo

Penrith have shown across the past two seasons they can step up for the important games – and this weekend will be no different. Will join the small list of teams to go back-to-back thanks to their players having more experience in the big moments.

COREY PARKER

Fox League expert

PENRITH by 4

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

This will be a super game that will have a huge talking point at the end. I get the feeling something big is coming. Parra have won two out of three against Penrith this year and won’t be worried.

LARA PITT

Fox League

PENRITH by 10

First Tryscorer: Viliame Kikau

CC Medal: Nathan Cleary

The Eels will go with Penrith as they did in week 1 of finals until Nathan Cleary’s kicking game eventually breaks them. The Panthers are too confident and calm, having been there on grand final day the past two years.

BRENT READ

News Corp Australia

PARRAMATTA by 4

First tryscorer: Will Penisini

CC Medal winner: Mitchell Moses

Why? Destiny is on their side. The Eels have waited 36 years to win another premiership and it feels like their time has now arrived. South Sydney had the Panthers on the rack in the opening half last weekend. Parramatta will finish them off.

DAVID RICCIO

News Corp Australia

PENRITH by 4

First tryscorer: Izack Tago

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

This will be tight. But ultimately, I worry the Eels trip “the long way round” to the grand final will cost them when it matters. The Panthers are fresh and fit and boast the best No.7 in the comp.

STEVE ROACH

Fox League expert

PENRITH by 7

First tryscorer: Stephen Crichton

CC Medal winner: Isaiah Yeo

Penrith have been the best team for past two years and know how to get the job done

PHIL ROTHFIELD

News Corp Australia

PARRAMATTA by 4

First tryscorer: Waqa Blake

CC Medal winner: Clint Gutherson

The Eels have beaten the Panthers twice this year. Parramatta showed championship-winning defence against the Cowboys last week.

ANDREW VOSS

Fox League

PENRITH by 7

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Dylan Edwards

The Panthers have been the best team for more than a season now. Would need to play poorly to lose.

PAMELA WHALEY

Code Sports

PARRAMATTA by 10

First tryscorer: Shaun Lane

CC Medal winner: Mitch Moses

There’s a new determination about Parramatta that makes me believe they can beat Penrith one more time this year. It seems more likely they’ll get up for a decider against their arch rivals than it is we’ll see another team go back-to-back so soon after the Roosters did it in 2019.

JIM WILSON

2GB Drive

PENRITH by 10

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Nathan Cleary

The Eels were superb against the Cowboys and so deserve to be in the big one but the Panthers are a machine and will be too strong and complete an extraordinary season across the NRL and NSWRL competitions.

JESS YATES

Fox League

PENRITH by 4

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Nathan Cleary

The Panthers have been the benchmark all season. Their grand final experience will give them the edge.

BOO BAILEY

News Corp Australia

PENRITH BY 14

First tryscorer: Brian To’o

CC Medal winner: Clive Cleary

Im afraid it’ll be “ding, dong the witch is still alive” for a plucky Parra as the big cats go back to black!

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