Back-to-Back: NRL Grand Final

Patrick M (Year 10)

Every year, NRL clubs from across the country pour their blood, sweat, tears and cash into building a team of outstanding players, but to varying degrees of success. Hard work across 25 rounds comes to a culmination in the finals, where the top 8 teams battle it out for a place in the prestigious Grand Final, and a shot at winning the title of Premiers. While the players work so hard to be the greatest, their fans are tasked with the job of convincing all their friends that their team is the best (even if they lost to the Bulldogs… and the Tigers). 

  In the final games of the season, many surprising games took place. Many teams ranked lower on the ladder overpowered those previously on top, with two strong wins by Paramatta and the Souths. With 4 teams left – North Queensland Cowboys, Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, excitement for the semi-finals was building. The Cowboys and Eels played a close semi-final, with the Eels winning, before Penrith took out the Rabbitohs easily. 

And then there were two.  

  Any conversation overheard throughout the week in the lead up to the Grand Final was all about footy. After the cancelling of many social events and shifts at work, it seemed as if the whole of Australia was ready for the game. Parra fans were treated to two Grand Finals in one day, with the NRLW Eels team scraping through the season on for and against, along with a decisive victory in the semi-final.  However, Parramatta fans received their first blow when Newcastle came out victorious in the Women’s match, winning 32-12.  

The fans were still hopeful as they turned their attention to the men’s game. The atmosphere was described as “astounding, filled with tension and fans who were somehow intoxicated before the game had even begun.” All of this excitement culminated at kick-off, as over 2.7 million viewers switched on their TVs and began to watch the game. 

  The first moments of the game started with some violent tackles from both sides, as adrenaline pumps and energy are at their peak. Then, at a mere 10 minutes into the game, Penrith young-gun Stephen Crichton weaved through the muddled Parramatta defence to score the opening try of the match. Following at 17 minutes, To’o dove for the left corner, scoring, leaving Nathan Cleary with a near impossible angle to kick. However, the reigning premiers started off strong with 10-0 lead. Continuing their fast-paced scoring, Cleary kicked a penalty goal, followed by a converted try from Sorensen. This relentless offensive from the Penrith side demonstrated their dominance over the game, with the score at 18-0 by halftime.  

Things kept rolling downhill for Parramatta fans, as their somewhat unwarranted confidence going into the game was shattered (sorry Mr Clarke). 5 minutes in, To’o scored his second try, and at 58 minutes, winger Charlie Staines broke through Parramatta defence to further extend their lead. The scoreboard sat at a staggering 28-0. It seemed that tonight would be a quiet night in the streets of Parramatta. However, as the Penrith defence grew tired, Parramatta sought to go home with points on the board. With 5 minutes left, captain Clint Gutherson put the Eels on the board, and after 20-year-old Jake Arthur took the field in the final minutes to have some ‘Grand Final experience’, the scoreboard was brought to a slightly less devastating 28-12. While Parramatta fans threw their TV remotes at their screens, Penrith fans were overjoyed, taking to the streets to celebrate their back-to-back premierships.  

  As the final buzzer sounded, the 2022 NRL season came to a close. It is now time for the cancelling of Kayo subscriptions, putting yellow jerseys back in the cupboard, and eagerly waiting for the next season to begin. While we impatiently wait, my mum reminds my dad and I that “If the NRL season never finished, summer would never start…”