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The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Grand final

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29th September, 2021
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The big one is here. Back in its traditional October long weekend timeslot, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers will clash with the winner to hoist the game’s ultimate prize, the Provan Summons Trophy aloft on Sunday evening. Here is The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel for the final time this season.

There are storylines everywhere you look this weekend. Whether it’s the Panthers desperately seeking revenge for last year’s grand final defeat to the Melbourne Storm, or their Week 1 finals loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Maybe it’s Ivan Cleary’s tale of redemption as he looks to guide his team to a premiership, the first in his coaching career.

Son Nathan will be looking to throw the big-game monkey off the back too, while the Rabbitohs have waited a long, long time since Sam Burgess last inspired them to the premiership.

Heartbreak has littered their run since that day, and there will be no time like the present as Adam Reynolds plays his final game for the men from Redfern, Wayne Bennett coaches his final game for the club and Benji Marshall continues to weight up his future ahead of his first grand final since 2005.

It’s going to be an emotional day whichever way you look at it, and that emotion could spill onto the field.


These teams have had an intriguing script play out through 2021. The Panthers bashed the Bunnies to within an inch of their life during two regular-season meetings, but then failed in the finals in a low-scoring encounter which once and for all threw the flat-track bullies tag off the back of South Sydney.

Since then, the Panthers have been forced into becoming match-hardened with two cracking, physical finals, while Bennett’s side had a week off, followed by a blowout win over Manly.

On the tipping front, everyone had a stinker last week thanks to Melbourne losing. Only The Crowd, David and Mary managed to tip the Rabbitohs for a point, which now leaves you, The Crowd, a tip ahead of The Barry. Everyone else is just about out of it.

This week, we will be tipping the result, margin, first try-scorer and Clive Churchill Medal winner.

Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Sunday evening to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2021 and be featured as part of the Crowd’s tips for the grand final.

We’ll do this in last to first ladder order. AJ is up first.

AJ Mithen

Tip: Panthers by 16
Let me start with the rather confusing statement that I actually want Souths to win. I don’t mind the Bunnies and I respect the way they’ve timed their season and squad – Latrell’s elbow aside – to be in top nick at the right time of the year. But I can’t see them getting through Penrith’s defence more than twice and they need to do that if they’ve got premiership dreams.


The main reason for this is the apparent death of V’landysball in the finals. Whistles are put away and rucks will be ponderous because Penrith will get away with absolute mass murder at the play the ball under Gerard Sutton.

Not to say the Bunnies will be angels themselves in this area, but the Panthers will do everything they can to stop fast ball from Damien Cook and Cody Walker to help Penrith control the middle.

Damien Cook of the Rabbitoh

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Souths got over in the first week with a brilliant defensive display but it’s worth noting the Panthers had more than enough chances to win, they just made bad errors at critical times. I can’t see it this week.

I hope I’m incredibly wrong about this because both clubs are great when they’re up and flowing, but there’s too much on the line and we’re in for a street fight.

First try-scorer: Viliame Kikau
Clive Churchill Medal: Nathan Cleary

Scott Pryde

Tip: Panthers by 4
This is a seriously tough match to tip, only made tougher by Adam Reynolds’ minor twinge to the hamstring. Who knows how serious that really is, but there is no doubt the men from Redfern need his kicking game if they are going to get the job done.


The Rabbitohs will also need their left edge to fire as they look to break down the incredibly strong defence of Ivan Cleary’s side.

I’m not convinced that it has the ability to make this game a shootout against a side who have let in four tries in the last three matches.

The Rabbitohs proved they could defend in the qualifying final, but since then, the level of rest and non-level of competition in last week’s game could hurt them if they try to turn this into another scrap against a team who are becoming masterful at them.

Nathan Cleary’s kicking needs to be deadly accurate for the Panthers, but I suspect it will be. He was excellent in the Origin arena, and while the pressure there was something of a let-down given the scorelines, Cleary needs this match to go right more than anyone on the park.

That, combined with an unreal defence, should see the Panthers over the line in what I’ll tip as the best grand final in many years.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates kicking a field goal

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

First try-scorer: Cameron Murray
Clive Churchill Medal: Nathan Cleary

Mary Konstantopoulos


Tip: Panthers by 8
At the start of the finals series, I certainly didn’t think it would be a South Sydney-Penrith Panthers decider, but here we are.

My view is that the Panthers are going to win this game by eight points. It’s quite incredible to me that after some physical, tough games that the Panthers were able to harness the energy they were able to against the Storm.

If that physicality and pushing of the rules continues, I think Souths will struggle to score points. Penrith will also no doubt take plenty of motivation from week one of the finals where South Sydney embarrassed them.

But I do also expect to see South Sydney pepper the edge featuring Paul Momorovski and Stephen Crichton. That may be Penrith’s weakness heading into this game.

Brian To’o will score the first try and Nathan Cleary will win the Clive Churchill Medal.

First try-scorer: Brian To’o
Clive Churchill Medal: Nathan Cleary

David Holden

Tip: Panthers by 4
Well, it’s finally here. The big one, the big dance, that one day in early October, the GF, whatever you want to call it. And, for once, I’m not talking about The Roar tipping comp. I’ve conceded defeat in that.


No, it’s now all about the Panthers and Rabbitohs this weekend. Sorry, Queenslanders, it’s a real shame that these two Sydney teams don’t get to meet in Sydney. Instead, the grand final is to be held in Brisbane, or Townsville. I also hear that Port Moresby is an option.

With only one game this week, we have some novelty tips to dwell on.

The Rabbitohs were again seriously impressive against the Sea Eagles last weekend. Their pack again won the ruck contest, with Souths’ attack benefitting from yardage gained and quick play the balls.

From there, Cody Walker was involved in everything. Tom Trbojevic tried hard behind a backpedalling pack but he could only do so much.

Cody Walker of the Rabbitohs celebrates scoring a try with Latrell Mitchell

Will Cody Walker have another big one in the decider? (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Panthers’ win was in total contrast but equally impressive. The two best defences in the comp fought it out for a spot in the grand final.

Two tries from Penrith was enough to knock out the minor premiers.

Souths beat Penrith three weeks ago but the Panthers have improved since then and the pain of last year will drive this weary, but battle-hardened, team on to victory.

It will be tight though, with the Panthers hanging on by four points.

First try scorer is a bit of a lottery, but I will go with Matt Burton out on the left edge.

For Penrith to win, Nathan Cleary will need to have a hand in everything and he will take out the Clive Churchill

First try-scorer: Matt Burton
Clive Churchill Medal: Nathan Cleary

The Barry

Tip: Rabbitohs by 4
Apparently, the grand final is coming up this Sunday but with HIA interchange rorts and Mad Monday mania dominating the back pages, don’t feel too bad if you haven’t noticed.

Penrith and Souths have met three times this season and all three have been interesting results. The Panthers put 50 on the Bunnies in Round 11. Souths fans were screaming conspiracy in a tough Round 23 clash before the Rabbitohs got revenge in Week 1 of the semi-finals, the six-point margin not really telling the true story of the win.

So, picking a winner here is incredibly tough. Both teams are defending incredibly well – the Panthers have only conceded four tries in three games. So, if you buy into the theory that attack wins games and defence wins competitions, then it’s easy to make a case for Penrith. While we’re talking tropes, let’s not forget the old, “You have to lose one to win one.”

Souths haven’t been slouches in defence either and unlike their opponents their attack has been humming for months now. So, for me, this really comes down to how well the Panthers defence can contain Souths’ attack. If they hold them to one try, they win. But if Souths get three, it’s theirs. That’s how close I see this one.

I’ve tipped against Souths twice in these semi-finals and they’ve won twice. Sorry, Souths fans, I’m backing your blokes.

For first try-scorer, I’m going with Matt “Bulldog” Burton and for Clive Churchill, I’m going with Cameron Murray.

Congratulations to fans of both teams and good luck for Sunday!

First try-scorer: Matt Burton
Clive Churchill Medal: Nathan Cleary

As originally announced in late June, today marks the end of Scott Pryde’s incredible run at The Roar. Over the last eight years, he has penned a whopping 3,186 articles, amassed well over ten million article reads and blogged just about every single sport in existence (and in every timezone!)

The Roar is more than just a sports website, it’s a community, and it’s a community that prides itself on giving hard-working people who have a passion for sport the opportunity to turn that passion into something more – and there can be no individual who better exemplifies that than Scott Pryde. His relentless dedication and unparalleled work ethic have been invaluable to this website for a very long period of time and we will always be indebted to his efforts.

On behalf of the entire editorial team – both past and present – thank you, Scotty. We wish you all the best.

– Stirling

Grand final AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
Margin 16 8 4 4 4 ?
First try-scorer Kikau To’o Burton Burton Murray ?
Clive Churchill Cleary Cleary Cleary Murray Cleary ?
Last week 1 1 1 0 0 1
Total 122 143 148 151 131 152

Remember to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm on Sunday to be counted as part of The Crowd for the decider