Well friends, it’s time once again for the NRL Grand Final, back in it’s traditional slot of the Sunday before the public holiday Monday, albeit at the fabled Graveyard of Lang Park, and if you cast your minds back, the last time any kind of First Grade Grand Final was held in Brisbane was the 1997 Super League Grand Final, when the Brisbane Broncos easily defeated Cornulla, although that game is now better remembered for what transpired after the game, several hundred kilometers away at an Engadine McDonald’s.
Of course, the festivities are already underway in Brisbane, with several infected airport workers being released from their cages into the South East Queensland community to herald the beginning of a new lockdown, players are snorting white powder in celebration of Mad Monday, as I predicted last week, Tommy Trbojevic smashed everyone to win the Dally M, the Panthers and Rabbitohs are back to flinging crap at each other like caged monkeys about tactical ploys involving the use of trainers in the backfield…
And Russell Crowe will bring back the Rabbitohs’ sacred foundation bell for only the third time this century, giving Isaac Luke the honour of ringing it on Sunday, and it appears the bell will be doing some kind of Olympic Torch relay, with a runner going from Redfern to pick up the bell from Rusty’s place in Nana Glen, then they’re running all the way up to the Tweed Heads border where they’ll do a runner change, and it’s on to Lang Park.
Of course, the bell has a storied history dating back to Souths’ inaugural game at Birchgrove Oval in April 1908, with Rusty buying the bell at an auction in 1999 just so Canterbury-Bankstown couldn’t get it, and the former Gladiator rang it alongside Albert Clift before Souths’ first game after readmission to the league in Round 1 of 2002, after which Rusty declared it would only come back when the Rabbits appeared in a Grand Final, a statement that came true in 2014, as Bob McCarthy had the honour of ringing the bell before Souths ended the 43-year premiership drought.
On a sadder note, this’ll be the last time we see & hear Peter Stirling commentating for Channel 9 on the old zombie box, bringing an end to his 45 years in the game, and I can tell you that having seen his feathers fall out over the last 3 decades, Peter has meticulously prepared for his new role in life after rugby league….
As Uncle Fester in another live-action reboot of the Addams Family…. dun-na-na-na*click click*
Total Score = 151/200
Pick is Underlined
Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, Sunday 6:30pm AEST/7:30pm AEDT
On to the fight for the Provan-Summons Trophy, and for the second time this finals series, the Panthers and Rabbitohs will go at each other’s throats, mainly via Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett in the media instead of on the field, in what will be the first all-Sydney Grand Final since 2014, which, as previously mentioned, was a good year for the Cardinal & Myrtle.
A year after falling short against the Melbourne Storm, the Panthers killed off those record-breaking bastards last week to earn another shot at their first premiership since 2003, on the 30th anniversary of their maiden premiership in 1991, while Souths, in just their second Grand Final in 50 years, are going for record premiership number 22, and they seem to have a good history winning premierships in years ending with 1, because they won the title in 1931, 1951, and 1971.
While the Panthers have a boatload of players from last year’s Grand Final team going around again, just 3 current Souths players featured in the 2014 title team; Alex Johnston, Adam Reynolds, in this his last game for the Redfern mob, and Tom Burgess, while current Panther Api Koroisau played in that Souths team, thanks to Isaac Luke getting suspended in the Prelim Final.
Of course, there’s always an unlucky bugger from Preliminary Final weekend who doesn’t and this year it’s Tevita Pangai Junior, who made a well-timed switch from the Broncos to the Panthers during the transfer period, but a knee injury has put paid to his season one week short of the final game.
As for Latrell Mitchell… Well, that was his own fault.
On another note, when you think about recent Grand Final matchups, 2019 (Roosters vs Raiders) was a Mullins family matchup (Bill vs Brett), 2020 (Panthers vs Storm) was a Geyer family matchup (Mark vs Matt), and this year it’s a Sattler family matchup.
On one hand, you’ve got Souths’ 4-time premiership captain ‘Gentleman’ John Sattler, one of the greatest Rabbitohs in history and an all-round hard arse, best remembered by the casual followers of the game for playing the entire 1970 Grand Final with a broken jaw as he led the Rabbits to victory, a moment that became the name of a Perry Keyes song:
And on the other hand, we’ve got his son, Panthers hero Scott Sattler, who will forever be remembered for charging downfield to pull an almighty try saving tackle on Todd Byrne in the 2003 Grand Final when the scores were 6 apiece, in a game the Panthers went on to win 18-6 over the Roosters.
The next facets to the game is that we’re going to see a slice of history on Sunday evening, no matter who wins.
No coach has won their maiden Grand Final after coaching at least 250 games, with John Lang coaching the Panthers to glory in 2003 in his 249th game as a coach, and if the Riff get up on Sunday, Ivan Cleary will have finally won a premiership after 370 games as a coach, including two previous losing Grand Finals.
There’s also the much-discussed 50 point omen, in which no team in First Grade history has won the premiership after conceding 50 points in a game, with Souths having conceded a half century twice in 3 games during May, one of them being against the Panthers in Round 11.
In what is Wayne Bennett’s last game coaching the Rabbits, in his record 10th Grand Final as a First Grade coach, with his fourth different club (Canberra, Brisbane, St George-Illawarra), going at record premiership number 8, shattering a barrier that has stood for 113 years would just about be the record to end all rugbaleeg coaching records.
And did I bother mentioning this might be the last time we see Benji Marshall in the NRL at any point up until now?
I don’t think I did, so here’s the flick pass to Pat Richards in the 2005 Grand Final.
Who’d have thought we’d see Benji back in an NRL Grand Final….
Certainly not the Tigers.
So who will be the lucky last Random NRL Pick for 2021?
I’ve really got to pull my finger out on this one, because it’s the last cultural choice of the year, so I’ll go with something I don’t think I’ve used all year.
Souths, who were apparently rooted without Latrell at No.1, changed the course of history when they upset the Panthers just 3 weeks ago in Townsville, keeping them to just 10 points in a Wayne Bennett coached finals performance not seen since his Dragons years, they come into this absolutely fresh after a week off and a comfy Prelim Final win against Manly, and Wayne will definitely gain solace in the fact that he’s scrambled Ivan’s brain once already, and he’d be more than happy to do it again with another nice old pre-game media snipe.
Without a doubt, the biggest issue for the Rabbitohs is Adam Reynolds’ troublesome hamstring, because if it keeps him off the field, then the Bunnies are up the shitshoot because I can’t see them winning without his magnificent kicking game, and in a game that could easily be decided by under a converted try, having an Adam Reynolds with a right boot worth a guaranteed 6 points is huge.
Meantime, the Panthers will go to Suncorp on Sunday knowing they’ve overcome the greatest hurdle any team can face to winning an NRL premiership in the last 15 years, and that’s the Melbourne Storm, and they did off the back of another resolute defensive finals performance, forcing 16 errors and giving up just 6 points, which means they’ve conceded just 4 tries in 3 finals, and as the old saying goes, defence wins premierships, something the recent Roosters and Storm premiership teams will happily confirm.
If you ask me, you know it was a bloody great win for Penrith when at least 3 opposition players are ALLEGEDLY snorting some kind of illegal substance on tape a few days later, just to try and forget the game.
However, it does remain to be seen if last Saturday was Penrith’s Grand Final, because anyone who witnessed the game with their own two eyes would tell you that it was utterly brutal, and the Panthers have more than a few sore boys fronting up again.
And of course, there’s referee Gerard Sutton, who still appears to be as confused about the 2021 rule book as we all are.
So you know what, I’ll pick the RABBITOHS to defy the 50 point curse and bring up 22 in ’21, and you know where they’ll be if they win?
WAYNE’S WORLD, WAYNE’S WORLD, PARTY TIME, EXCELLENT!