NRL Grand Finals news: Penrith respects ‘battle-hardened’ bogey team, Cleary hovers in late Grand Finals switch

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary knows only too well that Parramatta’s unenviable path to the NRL Grand Final will not make her a sitting duck on Sunday.

The Panthers won the Premiership last year after following a similar path, losing in the first week of the final before bouncing back and lifting the title.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Nicho Hynes was crowned this year’s Dally M Medalist.

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Destroying Canberra with their Finals hopes poised, the Eels defeated North Queensland, testing conditions in Townsville to reach Sunday’s Grand Final.

Despite a 2-1 record against the Panthers this year, the Eels have a strong chance of denying Penrith back-to-back NRL premierships.

However, Cleary said at the big final press conference on Thursday Parramatta’s tough road would make her an even more challenging opponent.

Grand Final coaches Ivan Cleary and Brad Arthur during NRL Fan Fest at Martin Place on Thursday. Recognition: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“They had a lot of tough games at the end of the season,” Cleary said.

“The game they had last week shows quite clearly that they are battle-hardened in a way.

“We went through something similar last year when we lost the first final so you can definitely do it (win a Premier League).

“They showed that and there are different ways to get there and anyone who gets to a grand final deserves it, that’s for sure.”

Penrith, entering their third consecutive Grand Final, is aware the Eels have been a bogey team for them since early 2020.

Only the Eels and Melbourne have beaten them three times in that span, and Parramatta has already had two convincing wins against the Panthers this year’s regular season.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has great respect for Parramatta ahead of Sunday’s grand final. Recognition: AAP

“We’ve played each other a lot over the past few years and there have been a lot of close games that could have gone either way,” Cleary said.

“I think it’s just a good match-up and I think that’s one of the reasons we’re both in the grand finals.”

Cleary will be weighing a late move to his side ahead of Sunday’s kick-off, with Mitch Kenny standing a good chance of starting at Hooker ahead of Api Koroisau.

Kenny has tended to take the sting out of the game in the early stages over the past few weeks.

Mitch Kenny in action during the NRL Pre-Final match between Penrith and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium. Recognition: Matt King/Getty Images

This in turn has allowed Koroisau to work its magic.

“It’s something we never really had a plan for, it just happened,” he added.

Honestly week by week I still don’t know which way is the best.

“Api started in State of Origin this year and he started in the grand finals.

“It’s something we mix and match a bit, it’s what we think is best on the day.”

Nicho Hynes was crowned this year’s Dally-M medalist.

Nicho Hynes was crowned this year’s Dally-M medalist. NRL Grand Finals news: Penrith respects ‘battle-hardened’ bogey team, Cleary hovers in late Grand Finals switch

James Brien

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