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Opinion

Most Sydney fans dislike Souffs and Penriff, but they'll still be watching the grand final

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Expert
28th September, 2021
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As an NRL supporter, it is vital that you barrack and side with your team no matter how poorly performed, socially irresponsible or disliked they may have become.

If anything ever did manage to sway an individual’s sentiment away from the club whose DNA they claim to have inside their body, they were never a fan to begin with.

That is what true rugby league fans do. They parochially support a club in the most one-eyed manner imaginable, all the while detesting the colours of opponents and rarely giving credit to the feats of the players who wear them.

That tribalism has sustained the game for over a hundred years and will continue to do so, despite the best efforts of the odd Neanderthal player who tests the patience of sports fans by presenting the game in a poor light with questionable decision making.

In a nutshell, that is the magic of rugby league, the game that always survives in spite of itself and thanks to the unwavering support of fans who give emotionally and financially to the cause.

That passion will once again come to the fore this weekend when the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs do battle at Suncorp Stadium to decide the 2021 premiership.

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A Panthers fan shows his frustration

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

No doubt, fans of the cardinal and myrtle will be ravenous in their support of Wayne Bennett’s men during their 80-minute quest for a 22nd title and the wild westies at the foot of the mountains will surely be very much the same, hoping that a third premiership trophy will take pride of place in the Penrith cabinet come Monday morning.

It sets up as a cracking game, one where the Panthers appear certain to start favourites after two seasons of dominance and a preliminary final defeat of Melbourne that potentially signals towards a premiership that many thought they had wrapped up 12 months ago.

However, as intriguing as the Sydney-centric contest may be, it is also one that draws nothing but angst and disinterest from those residents in Australia’s most populous city, whose allegiances lie elsewhere.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

As a Canterbury fan, the idea of a Souths win makes me physically sick. Had Sam Burgess been rightfully removed from the field in the early stages of the 2014 grand final, things may well have played out differently for my blue and whites. Instead, the Englishman courageously led the Rabbitohs as they dominated their way to a first premiership since 1971.

Yet climbing aboard the Panthers’ bandwagon is also far from an option, with Penrith hooker Jamie Jones, club legend Greg Alexander and a young Brad Fittler having put the Dogs to the historical sword on many occasions – and the memories are still vivid.

Fans of the Roosters could well find themselves in a similarly confused position. Supporting the arch-enemy Bunnies isn’t happening, nor is an allegiance to the team that snatched the 2003 premiership from under their noses and prevented rare back-to-back NRL titles.

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South Sydney Rabbitohs fans

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Eels fans will still be seething after what appeared a controversial and somewhat unlucky loss to the Panthers in Week 2 of the 2021 finals, where the Penrith support staff pulled every trick in the book to assure victory.

However, while the Parramatta supporter base will be dead against the Panthers, the chances of them selling their souls and siding with the eastern suburbs elite are slim and none.

Like fans of the Dogs and Roosters, perhaps they should just switch off and watch some top-quality reality television on Sunday night?

Manly fans find themselves in the most intriguing position. While determined to see their preliminary final conqueror defeated on the final day, such a result would also mean a win for the men from the western suburbs that they so desperately attempt to prevent from entering their sacred peninsula on most days of the year.

It is indeed a conundrum for fans.

Between them, the Dragons and South Sydney won all bar two of the premierships on offer between 1949 and 1971, thus creating the greatest rivalry in Australian rugby league.

No Saints fan in their right mind with be supporting the Bunnies, yet good luck getting any self-respecting Red V supporter to support the Riff. That sort of thing just does not happen in Sydney.

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Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates kicking a field goal

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Cronulla fanbase appear unlikely to even consider supporting either of the grand final combatants, such is their disturbingly insular nature and the fickle disinterest they show once their own team is out of contention.

As for the Wests Tigers’ fan-base, glorious memories of the 1969 grand final where a stunning upset saw the black and gold topple the Rabbits should see most hoping for a similar loss.

However, the Western Suburbs folk ingrained in the Tigers’ merger will be wishing nothing but the worst for Souths’ opponent, a club that pinched a talented player or two from their ranks when the Magpies needed them most.

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In reality, supporters of every club in the traditional rugby league heartland of Sydney have every reason to tune in to something other than the NRL grand final on Sunday. But they won’t.

We will all be watching and that is what keeps the game alive, healthy and expanding. No matter how much fans of the foundation or long standing clubs detest the successes of their opponents, there is always a story, a drama and a new piece of rugby league history to be written.

For that reason we will all be tuned in, somehow wishing that both teams could lose and our own team could be triumphant instead.

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