Penrith Panthers vs Melbourne Storm
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Tyrone May 15. Kurt Capewell 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Dean Whare 20. Matt Burton 21. Spencer Leniu
The Panthers have been slow starters this finals series but have shown to have the enthusiasm and ability to come from behind and grind out a couple of impressive wins. But despite the 17-game winning streak and qualifying for their first grand final since 2003, I believe they can ill-afford to start slow against the very experienced and very clinical Melbourne Storm. For Penrith to win a third premiership in the clubs history, not only must they start fast, they need to play with high energy and high intensity for the full 80 minutes and tire out Melbourne’s big boppers in the middle-third. Nathan Cleary’s kicking game will also need to be near-flawless to limit the impact of the Storm’s very fast and dynamic back three.
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Brenko Lee 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Dale Finucane 17. Nicholas Hynes 18. Tom Eisenhuth 19. Paul Momirovski 20. Tui Kamikamica 21. Ryley Jacks
For Melbourne to potentially send out one of the games greatest in Cameron Smith with another premiership and solidify their dominance over the past five years, they need to win the middle-third battle against a red-hot Panthers forward pack which will limit the influence of arguably the games number one halfback, Nathan Cleary. They will need to match their enthusiasm and frustrate their inexperienced opponents into making unforced errors, which we saw in their preliminary final win against Souths which almost cost them. From there I think the Storm will have too many points in them with their in-form halves, the speed of their outside backs, the skill and silkiness of their back-rowers, the potency of their bench and of course, the influence of their dummy-half and captain.
I feel the script is written for the team who has lost just one game all season and riding high on the back of an incredible 17-game winning streak (equal second in premiership history), only for them to fall at the last hurdle. The Storm are too clinical and have a wealth of big game experience. In my opinion, I think this young and inexperienced Panthers side has to lose one before they can win one. I could be very wrong, but I’m going to tip the Storm to win the 2020 Premiership.
Melbourne Storm by 8