The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Opinion

My 2020 NRL grand final preview

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Guru
20th October, 2020
34

After everything was said and done, it was the teams ranked first and second who remain to do battle in the NRL grand final.

For the Melbourne Storm it could be an end of an era with the potential retirement of Cameron Smith and departure of Craig Bellamy. They would certainly love to send those two off with another premiership in their possession.

Meanwhile, who would have predicted the Penrith Panthers to have the mammoth season they have had so far. They have only suffered one loss in the entire season and to fall short when it matters most would be absolutely heartbreaking.

They are two contrasting teams when it comes to experience in the grand final. Melbourne still have a plethora of players who have remained in the squad when the Storm last won the premiership in 2017. Meanwhile, the majority of the Penrith players will be making their first appearance ever on the big stage.

These two teams met back in Round 6 when Penrith held on to win 21-14. There are some significant match-ups to monitor across the park.

The battle of the forwards will be extremely important to allow the halves to attack the opposition goal-line. When you look at the numbers, the Panthers on average run over 160 metres and over 80 post contact metres extra per game than the Storm. The Panthers also average 20 kick return metres more than the Storm thanks to Dylan Edwards and that can help with field possession.

Dylan Edwards

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Penrith will be happy to welcome back Viliame Kikau after a one-week suspension.

With the numbers favouring Penrith, it brings Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai into play as they have many ways they can attack the defence. They like to take on the line while also making the right passes when necessary. They also have a strong kicking game and force many dropouts to build pressure.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Penrith also make the least amount of errors in the competition, allowing them to complete sets and dominate possession.

One area that Melbourne can exploit is their ability to generate offloads and create second-phase play. The Storm play in unison and they are a threat no matter where they are on the field. Every player gets involved and Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes have a great running game.

Against Parramatta and Canberra, the Storm displayed their ability to score short-range and long-range tries. Their ability to move the ball with decoy runs, create overlaps and provide support will always be prominent. Ryan Papenhuyzen, Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu are one of the best outside-back trios in the competition and the wing defence for Penrith will need to be resolute once again.

The likes of Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona will need to stand tall against Penrith’s forward pack. They need to allow Cameron Smith the ability to exploit the middle if possible.

The bench will also be pivotal in making a difference. Both teams have quality benches with impact players. For Penrith, Moses Leota, Kurt Capewell and Zane Tetevano will be looking to outmatch Brandon Smith, Tino Faasuamaleaui and Dale Finucane.

Advertisement
Advertisement

This is going to be an extremely tough contest. Penrith have shown that this season has been no fluke so far and most signs suggest that the Panthers are the better team. However, the Melbourne Storm are different beasts when it comes to finals footy. Their experience, determination and skill cannot be overlooked and as a result they have been touted as favourites.

There are plenty of unknowns with the Penrith Panthers and how they handle the pressure of the NRL grand final is yet to be seen.

There is no question that these are the two best teams in the competition. We should expect a back-and-forth game by these two sides, which ultimately ends up in a nail biter.

Overall, while the heart would love to see Penrith upset the juggernaut of Melbourne, the head would say the Storm might have too much class on grand final day.