Penrith's Jarome Luai is expecting a tough grand-final rematch against Brisbane on Thursday night. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Penrith’s reign shows importance of grand-final rematch

Scott Bailey March 21, 2024

Penrith players still remember their first grand-final rematch.

It was March 2021, and right back at the start of the Panthers’ dynasty.

Up against Melbourne, Panthers players had conducted a forensic review of their 26-20 defeat to the Storm in the previous year’s decider in the months before.

“We wanted to not shy away from it,” winger Brian To’o recalled this week.

“It was hard and painful.

“But it laid the foundation for us and where we are now.”

Almost to a man, Penrith players still regard the 2020 grand final and the battles with Melbourne that followed as a big part of the making of them.

They strived to become more aggressive, arrogant and willing to stand up for their mates.

“We used that grand final (as motivation) for every game that year (in 2021),” five-eighth Jarome Luai said.

“Not just when we played Melbourne.

“We took things out of that game that we will use until we stop playing. There were great lessons out of that game.”

Ultimately, Penrith won that 2021 grand-final rematch, with Viliame Kikau getting off the floor to sprint and make a last-second try-saving tackle.

Afterwards, the Panthers second-rower described in great detail how the pain of the 2020 defeat had driven him across the field.

The 12-10 victory was significant.

It not only helped Penrith win 12 straight to start 2021, but shifted the balance of rugby league power away from the Storm to the Panthers.

The sides met again in the 2021 preliminary final and Penrith kept their form to claim a brutal 10-6 win over Melbourne.

They beat South Sydney in the following week’s grand final and lifted the trophy again in the two years since.

Come Thursday night, Brisbane have a chance to make a similar statement.

 Brisbane will have to beat Penrith without the inspirational Adam Reynolds who is injured. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

Their task has been made more difficult with Adam Reynolds and Payne Haas both out with knee injuries.

And while Broncos players were told this week by coach Kevin Walters to shut up shop about last year’s grand final, it is clear they are driven by it.

Winger Jesse Arthars admitted as much last week before the order was set in stone.

Brisbane have also spent great time reviewing the defeat, and what Nathan Cleary did to steal the trophy during a crazy 20-minute period on October 1 last year.

Second-rower Jordan Riki admitted last month the reviews were gut-wrenching, while Reece Walsh has also spoken of the game as an open wound.

“I felt in that game I probably wasn’t involved as much as I wanted to be and that was credit to Penrith and their defence,” Walsh said just before season’s eve.

“The scars are still hurting but we are using that for the season ahead. We are keeping that wound open.”

A victory for Brisbane will not win them the trophy they let slip from their grasp last year, but one look at Penrith’s reign shows a statement trend-setting statement can be made in the much-anticipated rematches.

“Maybe (Brisbane’s) way of processing it is flushing it,” To’o said.

“Whatever works for them … but I know they are definitely going to be motivated to do more this year.”