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The 2023 NRL finals are upon us. The series kicked off on Friday, September 8, with the Brisbane Broncos playing host to the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium, and finishing on Sunday, October 1 with the grand final.
The Broncos advanced to their first Preliminary Final since 2018 with a crushing win over Melbourne, who lost multiple players to injury in the process.
Reece Walsh, Kotoni Staggs, Selwyn Cobbo and Jordan Riki grabbed the tries as the famed Brisbane right edge fired up, while the Storm will have to regroup before their knockout match at AAMI Park.
Heavy favourites heading in, the Panthers had no trouble dispatching the Shaun Johnson-less Warriors to advance to a fourth consecutive preliminary final.
From the moment Brian To’o scored in the first five minutes of the clash, the minor premiers had the upper hand, with Nathan Cleary at his damaging best – even setting up a try with just one shoe on.
The Warriors will need to face either a red-hot Newcastle or the dangerous Canberra in a home semi-final next week to reach the final four, while the Panthers are now just two wins away from a third successive premiership.
The Roosters’ remarkable season turnaround continued with a courageous, thrilling win over the Sharks at a mid-renovation PointsBet Stadium, with an ice cool Sam Walker field goal at the death securing a one-point triumph.
The Roosters had to overcome injuries to Joey Manu and Joseph Suaalii, as well as James Tedesco being sin-binned early in the second half, but the brilliance of Walker and Siua Wong, who scored the match-tying try, was enough to withstand Nicho Hynes and the Sharks.
Trent Robinson’s men now face old foes the Storm in a blockbuster semi final at AAMI Park.
In one of the greatest finals in NRL history, the Knights looked set to suffer a monstrous upset to a fired-up Raiders when they trailed 16-6 at half time, only to storm into the lead with four tries in 15 minutes.
Then, just when it seemed their semi-final spot was secure, the Raiders fired back with two of their own, Tom Starling’s 77th minute try enough to force extra time.
With two Jamal Fogarty field goal attempts getting charged down by the desperate Knights, a penalty for offside was enough to give Kalyn Ponga the chance to slot the match-winning two points, and send McDonald Jones Stadium into raptures.
The second week of finals pits the two qualifying final losers against the elimination final winners, in a bid to determine places in the final four.
The Storm fought past a plucky Roosters to reach the last four thanks to a heroic try from Will Warbrick in the dying minutes.
They will face two-time reigning premiers the Panthers in a rematch of the 2020 grand final.
The Warriors’ first home final in 15 years was a triumph, Andrew Webster’s men piling on three tries within 10 minutes to all but kill the Knights off en route to a crushing semi final win.
With Shaun Johnson barely missing a beat on return, the Warriors were barely troubled by the Knights, and will head back across the Tasman to face the Broncos in next week’s preliminary final with renewed confidence.
It’s all systems go to the grand final in the second-last week of the NRL season, with the two qualifying final winners playing host to the semi-final victors. The winners will face off in the grand final, while for the losers, it’s season over.
Penrith were way too strong for Melbourne with Nathan Cleary putting on a masterclass to send the premiers into their fourth straight decider.
The Panthers stretched out to an 18-4 lead at half-time and after Cleary and Dylan Edwards scored midway through the second stanza, the Panthers put the Storm away with clinical precision.
Winger Brian To’o touched down three times down the right flank, capitalising on Cleary’s lead-up work.
The Broncos were at their electrifying best as they steamrolled the Warriors after a sluggish start to book a first grand final berth since 2015.
Led by another outstanding performance from Reece Walsh – aside from a controversially overlooked forward pass to set up a second-half try – two early tries from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak proved as good as things got for the Warriors, whose superb resurgence in 2023 ended on a disappointing note.
All roads lead to Homebush, where the 2023 NRL premiers will be crowned.
The Panthers secured rugby league immortality with a remarkable comeback victory in one of the greatest NRL grand finals ever.
Gone for all money at 24-8 down, with Ezra Mam having run rampant for the Broncos with a 10-minute hat-trick, the Nathan Cleary-inspired Panther stormed home with three tries, the last from Cleary himself, to secure a third straight premiership.
Cleary was fittingly awarded a second Clive Churchill Medal for best afield, adding to his win in the 2021 decider.