ANALYSIS: Panthers must win because time is running out, not to avoid chokers tag
It can be easy for a young team that has tasted success to feel like grand finals come along all the time, but the premiership window starts closing almost immediately after it opens, writes Jon Healy.
It's all at once a massive over-simplification and over-complication of what's actually going on.The fact is, Penrith are suffering the same issues as every top rugby league team.For two years, their name has been the first circled on the draw by the 15 other sides in the league.
This season they lost a huge chunk of their team to State of Origin duty, then Cleary's shoulder injury kept him out for a month-and-a-half in the last third of the season.It rattled their shape and took a sledgehammer to the production of halves partner Jarome Luai, a player who's at his best when his confidence is up with a head of steam behind him.
Luai and the Panthers haven't had it all their own way of late, but they're still only two wins from the grand final.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)Cleary only came back with a few rounds left, sporting a massive glowing red target on his clipped wing, like some sort of boss in a video game. headtopics.com
Naturally, it took time for the Panthers to perfectly reintegrate Cleary and prop James Fisher-Harris back into the line-up.The team was undone by Souths in the first week of the finals on the back of a Wayne Bennett masterclass.The press conference that got the refs onside and seemingly distracted opposing coach Ivan Cleary got a lot of the headlines, as most media manipulation does, but it was the on-field work that won them the game.
Swarming defence attacked Brian To'o at the start of every set and rattled the Panthers out of playing their best.South Sydney's performance in the first week of the finals shouldn't be written off as the beneficiary of a Penrith choke.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde
)Life gets hard when opponents, pundits and fans are all picking apart your game, focusing on all the weaknesses — because talking about how good you are for two straight years is boring.It's remarkable how quickly teams go from fun battlers and everyone's second team, to the rich that need to be eaten. And that's where the Panthers found themselves this year.
From the accusations of arrogance earlier this year, to the eagerness to engrave their headstone before they're dead.'Here lie the 2021 Penrith Panthers. Undone by their own hubris and definitely not injuries, two long seasons and other good NRL teams.' headtopics.com
Like sands through the hourglass, so go premiership windowsPenrith needs to win tonight's gameagainst the Eels — and next week's, and the week after that if they get there — not to avoid some sort of mystical aura of chokers, but for them, because premiership windows are narrow.
Remember the 2012 Bulldogs that won the minor premiership and made the grand final in their first year under the eye of Des Hasler? Yeah, they never finished in the top four again and only returned to the grand final in 2014 to get beaten by the Rabbitohs.
The Bulldogs changed the game back in 2012, but couldn't get over the hump.(AAP: Paul Miller)Thrilling Warriors sides have made two grand finals in the past 20 years with little but pain either side of those 2002 and 2011 outings.The Broncos found themselves in the longest premiership drought in club history almost immediately after the 2006 decider, then watched their next generation of coulda-been champions dissolve rapidly after the 2015 loss to the Cowboys.
Every year, in fact, more teams don't win the premiership than do, because it's incredibly hard to win at a high rate for seven months and have the entire season rely on a handful of sudden-death games in September.Read more: ABC News »
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Just another example of what state of origin does to the season proper. Disrupts it big time. The eels were lucky to beat the knights thanks to a penalty try that should not have been awarded. Gutherson dropped the ball with the grubber kick. Obvious. Penrith? They'll be right.
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Eels want to ‘rattle the cage’ of Panthers in finals grudge matchParramatta’s Isaiah Papali’i says belief is high within the Eels camp and they can’t let the Panthers dictate proceedings in their knockout semi-final.
Penrith dealt injury blow with To'o ruled out of semi-final against ParramattaOutstanding winger Brian To'o is sidelined with an ankle injury, as the Panthers look to keep their premiership campaign on track following the shock loss to the Rabbitohs. Oh, oh, no, no, not To'o! 😂 NRLPanthers PenrithPanthers nrleelspanthers
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