The NRL grand final promised to be an intense and tight affair. It was certainly played at a furious pace. Both teams gave it their all. Penrith dominated possession, thanks to precision kicking from Nathan Cleary – some of his high kicks were absolute monsters! Souths tackled and tackled – the defensive effort was heroic – and had their chances in attack too.
The result, Panthers 14-12, was a fair indication of the contest.
Having lost to Melbourne in the decider last year, Penrith were deserving winners in 2021. I am pleased for them. As Souths fan Chris Lodge said to me after the game: “The win will do the Penrith area a lot of good. The people of western Sydney have suffered so much during this pandemic.”
Still, I am very proud to be a South Sydney supporter right now. The grand final showed the skill and character of our team.
How good is Cody Walker! His solo try in the first half was one of the best tries by a five-eighth I’ve seen. It inspired his teammates to dig deep and never give up.
I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
Stephen Crichton’s try – intercepting Walker’s cut-out pass to Alex Johnston – was a heartbreaker. The play could so easily have led to a Souths try at the other end. A matter of millimetres.
To his credit, Walker recovered to set up a try for Alex Johnston to bring Souths to within two points of their opponents, but Adam Reynolds missed the tough conversion from the sideline.
Congratulations to Alex Johnston for most tries by a Rabbitoh in a season.
In the final minutes, Reynolds’ attempt at a 40-metre field goal fell short – it was straight enough, it just didn’t have the distance.
Let me say this to Adam Reynolds, thank you for everything. Hold your head up high. You have been a sensational halfback and captain – and we are all proud of you. We wish you and your family health and happiness in Brisbane.
To Benji Marshall, our mighty utility player, what you have done for us this year has inspired the younger players. Whenever you came onto the field, into any position, it was like a breath of fresh air for the team. All the best to you for your retirement.
To coach Wayne Bennett, a big thank you. You’ve been an inspiration not only to the players but to the fans as well. You’ve always been approachable and easy to talk to.
Passionate supporter Tony Day put it nicely when he said: “Terribly disappointing result but not a disappointing effort by the Bunnies. The Panthers deserved to win but we didn’t deserve to lose. And there’s always next year!”