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22 mins: Finally an error! The try-scorer Kenny was scragged by Reynolds and as he landed a full pelt his weight squeezed the ball loose from his grasp. Brisbane can breathe their first sigh of relief. It is a long sigh too with Flegler extending the stoppage as he is invited to take an HIA on the sideline.
21 mins: Penrith’s error-free half continues from the restart. 11/11 completed sets. Brisbane manage a fifth – and it almost ends with another Walters 40-20 but Turuva does magnificently to scramble and dive to keep the kick in play.
Conversion! Penrith 6-0 Brisbane (Crichton 19)
Interestingly, Crichton takes the conversion in his final game before departing for the Bulldogs. In back play Cleary is being treated by trainers for a left knee injury. His deputy makes no mistake and the Panthers take a deserved 6-0 lead.
TRY! Penrith 4-0 Brisbane (Kenny 18)
Finally the Panthers open the scoring – but not how they would have expected! Reynolds nails the short drop-out, Farnworth wins the aerial battle and palms the ball backwards – but there’s nobody in a white jersey nearby! Kenny can’t believe his luck as the ball bounces into his path a metre from the line. His first try for the season is in a grand final!
Mitch Kenny celebrates with teammates after scoring a try. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images
17 mins: From a 10m scrum on the left the Panthers begin their assault on the Brisbane line. Leota’s repelled, then To’o, and Fisher-Harris. Crichton straightens up on the fourth, but time after time there’s a tackle and cover. How have the Broncos not conceded points? On the last the grubber to the right corner looks threatening but Walsh is across to cover – but at the concession of a line drop-out.
16 mins: Again Penrith fly downfield with Fisher-Harris finding an offload and Martin driving hard. Cleary kicks from 20 but yet again there’s a white jersey plucking it from the sky. It’s Staggs again, but the hara-kiri continues with Staggs and Walsh making a mess of the play-the-ball 10m from his own line! That’s Brisbane’s fifth error. Penrith have yet to transgress.
Nathan Cleary of the Panthers kicks during the NRL grand final. Photograph: James Gourley/AAP
14 mins: The Panthers are soon on Brisbane’s 20m line. Luai and Cleary both try to dart through, then the ball goes through Penrith hands like it’s a hot potato with nobody wanting to take responsibility. That same lack of cohesion continues on the last with a kick that comes to nought. The Broncos have defended well so far, but they need to steady the ship.
12 mins: Brisbane go through a safe set – complete with another Haas offload – but Walsh hammers a 60m kick that bobbles through the in-goal and into touch. Another gift for Penrith.
11 mins: Brisbane survive this time, covering five tackles inside 30m and denying Edwards a kick on the last. Superb defence both in the middle and on the flanks. This is fast and exhausting footy though, and in this heat it has to take its toll.
Dylan Edwards of the Panthers is tackled. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images
10 mins: Penrith get to work and grind through the metres from halfway until Cleary breaks the line and gets to the red zone. On the last Luai can’t find room with his grubber and Brisbane survive – but not for long! There’s a turnover almost immediately and the Panthers resume their onslaught. The Broncos cannot continue to gift a side like Penrith easy ball. There will be only one outcome.
9 mins: Penrith deliver a steadying set but Brisbane have the bit between their teeth and hammer straight back at pace. Farnworth sets the tone on the left but then it goes through hands to the right (including those of the fit Walsh) as the Broncos eat up the metres. Haas now does his trademark spin in contact, finds the offload, but it isn’t secured by a white jersey and the attack grinds to a halt. Live by the sword, die by the sword I guess.
7 mins: From the restart Brisbane are all business and on tackle two go quickly to the left. There’s an overlap if they can execute – and they almost do! So close! Unfortunately the final pass to Arthars is too hot and he loses his footing reeling it in. Superb start to this match.
6 mins: In back play Reece Walsh looks proppy, but Walters doesn’t care – he SMASHES A 40-20 to turn defence into attack! What a kick!
Reece Walsh tests his ankle. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images
5 mins: Penrith start to open up off the resulting scrum and on the fourth tackle threaten the right corner through Tago. He’s hauled down near the line and from the play the ball Cleary bombs over the posts but Staggs does amazingly to mark then wriggle out of contact and away from the line drop-out zone.
4 mins: Leota pummels Carrigan with a mighty carry, sending the Bronco flying backwards. Those metres gained allow Cleary to launch a testing kick but Coobo is equal to it. Penrith then set about Brisbane in defence, and by tackle four there’s a loose carry on the ground – the Broncos with the first mistake! Martin did the hard work, forcing Farnworth into the error, and he and Leota then stood over their vanquished foe, snarling like two of the heads of Cerberus.
Can the Panthers capitalise?
Liam Martin of the Panthers is tackled. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP
2 mins: Luai claims a testing kick-off and Fisher-Harris relishes the first hit-up. The Panthers invite their front five to bulldoze towards halfway before Cleary bombs downfield. The Broncos also make no mistakes with their opening set. Nothing flash from either side early on in the heat.
The two best teams of 2023 have 80 minutes to decide who will lift the premiership trophy.
Never mind that, it’s time for kick off. Old vs new. Black vs white. NSW vs Queensland. Here we go!
Uncle Allan Madden performs the Welcome to Country, then everyone stands for a pretty ordinary rendition of the national anthem.
And now the Panthers, top to toe in intimidating black, old hands at this grand final lark, led by Isaah Yeo. But in the stands, judging by the noise, Penrith fans are definitely outnumbered.
The Broncos are first onto the Sydney turf, greeted by a wall of noise, and the sight of many thousands of Queenslanders. Brisbane are in white jerseys, maroon shorts and white socks.
Can Brisbane snap the streak, or will Penrith make history? The NRL grand final is just moments away.
There’s the son of Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai, shedding a tear in a barber’s chair, waiting for his grandpa to return.
There’s the sporting goods store coach Ivan Cleary used to buy boots for his son, the star halfback Nathan.
There, the restaurant Nathan Cleary named as his favourite, not long after he signed his long-term deal with the Panthers.
The black, yellow, red, and green (and pink) streamers on the shops down Penrith’s High Street. Signs above the door when you walk into the library. More adorning council fences. Decals on car after car.
Adam Gee will referee his first Premiership decider, supported by touch judges Chris Sutton and David Munro, with the heavily scrutinised Ashley Klein in the bunker. Klein refereed last year’s decider, and all three matches in this year’s State of Origin series, but along with fellow veteran Gerard Sutton, has faced criticism over a number of major decisions in recent weeks.
Adam Gee will referee his first NRL grand final. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images
And about that Brisbane flair – they will have to do something miraculous to fashion a winning score against the incredible Penrith defence. The Panthers have shipped an average of just 8.25 points per game in their last eight finals, and conceded just four and 13 points to the Broncos in their two previous clashes this season.
Can Reece Walsh escape Penrith’s clutches tonight? Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP
For all the talk around Penrith’s halves and Brisbane’s flair, like every big game the battle up front is likely to be the most significant determining factor. And what a battle we have in store.
The Panthers’ pack have dominated for three seasons in a row with the menace of James Fisher-Harris, the nous of Isaah Yeo, and the drive of Liam Martin – one of my personal favourites.
But if there’s a mob with the brawn and endeavour to match them it’s the Broncos. Thomas Flegler, Payne Haas, Kurt Capewell, and another personal favourite – Patrick Carrigan – have proven themselves time and again at Origin level and will not be overawed by the occasion.
With the Kangaroos in Pacific Cup action later this month, today’s 80 minutes could be effectively a forward pack international trial.
Patrick Carrigan will be vital if Brisbane are to defeat Penrith in the NRL grand final. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Remember when nepo babies were all over the news? They missed a trick by not focussing on rugby league. Last year we had Brad Arthur and son Jake for the Eels taking on Ivan and Nathan Cleary of the Panthers. This time around the Clearys face another father-son combo in Kevin and Billy Walters.
Anyway, back to the business at hand.
Let’s just pretend what we’re watching right now is this:
Up next is the pregame headline act – someone pretending to be Tina Turner. The press release from the NRL reads:
A very special performance from TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL will headline the entertainment at this year’s NRL and NRLW Telstra Premiership Grand Final. Marking 30 years since Tina Turner’s iconic performance at the 1993 Grand Final and celebrating her unique association with the game, the cast of the smash hit musical is bringing Turner’s music back to the game’s biggest stage.
Featuring iconic songs including “Simply The Best”, “Nutbush” and “Proud Mary”, TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL tells the story of Tina Turner’s life and has received 37 prestigious award nominations including Best Musical (Tony Awards) and Best New Musical (Olivier Awards).
The entertainment line-up on Grand Final day also includes two performances from Australian rock band, King Stingray. The five-piece from the Northern Territory, who perform in both English and Yolŋu Matha languages, will deliver the NRLW Grand Final pre-game show before returning to the stage in the build up to the NRL Grand Final.
I’m keeping my eyes peeled for Limmy.
The prematch entertainment has kicked off with a splendid rendition of Down Under by King Stingray.
Dale Finnucane. Speaks like Darren Lockyer, sings like James Taylor #NRLGF
— John Davidson (@johnnyddavidson) October 1, 2023
That was unexpected, and really quite good.
To remember the rugby league figures that have died this year Channel Nine’s In Memoriam segment was accompanied by Dale Finucane (yes, the 100kg Cronulla forward) singing tenderly and playing an acoustic guitar. He did a great job.
The list of names that appeared behind Finucane included rugby league legends Lionel Morgan, John Sattler, and Tina Turner.
It’s been a big weekend for Brisbane football. Broncos fans will hope to enjoy their day out more than their Lions counterparts did yesterday. They will definitely be better represented in Sydney than they were in Melbourne, with the balance of support in Accor Stadium possibly even leaning their way by kick-off.
Penrith are bidding to become first team in 40 years to win three in a row, but how much has rugby league changed in that time?
Words about the all-conquering Penrith Panthers have hardly been exchanged this week without referencing those Eels: the last team to go three in a row. The Panthers are tipped by many to replicate the feat this Sunday. That would bookend rugby league’s era of radical change, as the game’s protagonists describe it.
Fans of all persuasions have descended on Accor Stadium for today’s celebration of league. Despite a push for a PNG team, Gethin wants a side from the WA back in the NRL. “It’s a national comp, it makes sense to fill out the states in Australia before expanding elsewhere.” pic.twitter.com/iBz17Robvd
— Jack Snape (@jacksongs) October 1, 2023
Fiancés Katie and Joel drove down from the Sunshine Coast for the match. They head back tonight, to get Katie to work at 2pm tomorrow. “Today it’s slowly peaking anxiety,” Panthers fan Joel says. Katie believes it’s the Broncos time. “They’ve had enough, they can share.” pic.twitter.com/7QoOsJV2Wr
— Jack Snape (@jacksongs) October 1, 2023
Mostafa Rachwani explores the culture that has made Penrith so special.
The Panthers have become the epitome of a local success story. Key players have come through their youth setup based in the Penrith region.
Today’s grand final caps a rapid turnaround for the Broncos after the competition powerhouses risked becoming a byword for mismanagement.
It has been a remarkable return from such dark days. Three very different men – Walters, Reynolds, Walsh – have brought three very different elements that have led Brisbane back to the promised land. Clubs often talk about rebuilds but rarely do they have any true plan about rebuilding a culture. Credit must go to the Broncos, who had a plan. It worked and they are now 80 minutes away from premiership glory.
From the NRL:
The list of players who will attend on grand final day to be acknowledged includes 300-game players Andrew McCullough (St George-Illawarra Dragons), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys) and Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders).
Others who will take part in the tribute include Brad Takairangi and Mitch Rein (Parramatta Eels), Josh Reynolds (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Korbin Sims, Daniel Alvaro and Renee Targett (St George Illawarra Dragons), Lachlan Coote (North Queensland Cowboys), Sam Williams (Canberra Raiders), and Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks).
Additional players to be acknowledged through the tribute are Josh Hodgson (Parramatta Eels), Tevita Pangai-Junior (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) and Sam Bremner (Sydney Roosters).
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said:
We will never take for granted what the players and their families contribute to the game, which is why today’s celebration of their rugby league careers is so important.
The retiring players tribute is an opportunity for the rugby league community to say thank you. The players have made significant contributions to the game during their careers, and we wish them well in their careers going forward.
It’s time for Wade Graham to narrate a send-off to this year’s notable retirees.
The Broncos are also unchanged, which means veteran Corey Oates – the only survivor from Brisbane’s last grand final – misses out.
Broncos: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan
Interchange: 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Brendan Piakura 16. Kobe Hetherington 17. Keenan Palasia
Reserves: 18. Corey Oates
Brisbane Broncos are looking forward to their first grand final since 2015. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP
No late changes from the two-time defending champions who go in unchanged from their preliminary final demolition of the Storm. From one to 17, this is a well-oiled machine that will be hard to shift. Nine Panthers are taking the field for their fourth grand final in a row.
There remain doubts over the fitness of Jarome Luai who dislocated his left shoulder a month ago, but he’s already proven he can play through pain.
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo
Interchange: 14. Jack Cogger 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Luke Garner
Reserve: 18. Tyrone Peachey
The Penrith Panthers are ready to make history. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP
One thing you should know (or are probably already enjoying / dealing with) is that it is hot!
Too hot for 1 October. According to data from the Bureau of Meteorology, two years had tied for Sydney’s hottest 1 October on record: 33.1C was recorded at Observatory Hill weather station in both 1961 and 2009. However, the station recorded 35.6C at 3.02pm, smashing the previous record. Sydney Airport’s mercury got up to 36.9C and Penrith’s peaked at 37.3C at 3.07pm.
It will still be pushing 30C at kick-off, and clearly the heat will be a factor with both teams having to carefully manage their interchange.
If that wasn’t difficult enough for players to contend with, the hot weather has been accompanied by a stiff northwesterly breeze that will shift to a southwesterly during the night. The coin toss for the choice of end may prove to be a factor.
The NRL grand final is the third match of a busy day at Accord Stadium. Already we have seen the Rabbitohs defeat the Tigers in the NRL State Championship and the Knights power home late to down the Titans in the NRLW grand final. Tamika Upton was at her brilliant best.
Nick Tedeschi sets the scene:
The old saying goes that defence wins premierships; it has without question been a fair guide for the better part of two decades. Since 2006, the year the Melbourne Storm changed rugby league by making winning the tackle the centrepiece of success, only four teams with a worse defensive record than their grand final opponent have won.
Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the NRL grand final between Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos. Kick-off at Accor Stadium in Sydney is scheduled for 7.30pm AEDT.
On a baking hot October evening at the Olympic Stadium, this is the premiership decider the 2023 season has long been building towards: the relentless Penrith juggernaut against Brisbane’s effervescent scene-stealers.
Since round three of the home and away season the Panthers spent 14 weeks on top of the ladder, the Broncos 10. The duopoly was interrupted only briefly, at the end of round 11 by the Rabbitohs, before order was restored swiftly.
This pair won the most games and lost the fewest, scored the most points and conceded the least. Simply the best.
For the Panthers, tonight is all about history. They stand 80 minutes away from becoming the first side in 40 years to win three grand finals in a row, and the first of the NRL era.
For the Broncos it’s about redemption. Absent from the showpiece since 2015, and without a premiership since 2006, the mighty Queensland organisation have plumbed uncharacteristically low depths in recent times, but they have risen from the ashes with one of the most exciting groups in modern footy, led by arguably the most dynamic young player of his generation in Reece Walsh.
Let’s settle in, enjoy all the sights and sounds from Sydney, and savour the two best sides in the competition slugging it out for the NRL’s biggest prize.
Either Adam Reynolds of the Broncos or Nathan Cleary of the Panthers will lift the Provan-Summons Trophy this evening. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP