Western Sydney pride is on the line between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs on Saturday night with a place in the NRL Grand Final at stake. A couple of weeks ago many gave these teams more chance of meeting on Mad Monday celebrations than in a Preliminary final at ANZ Stadium, but both have defied the odds to be just 160 minutes away from the Premiership.
Despite beating the reigning champions and securing a week off, yet again the Panthers are considered underdogs in this match. You get the feeling that they could be 20 points up with a couple of minutes left in the Grand Final, and some would still insist they are premiership outsiders.
Despite not impressing pundits and bookmakers the Panthers have gone about their job admirably, and generally without any kind of major slump. This is despite having a terrible injury list, and having secured a week off for recovery leading up to this game could well be the deciding factor on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs on the other hand are the classic September bolter, peaking at the right time having drifted from consideration as a serious contender. They have spectacularly turned around their form by eliminating the two most consistent teams in the NRL over the past decade – Melbourne and Manly.
Des Hasler has been able to name an unchanged side after Josh Jackson and Michael Ennis escaped charges from the Manly game. James Graham has been a headline maker of late, but a quick look at the stats from last week show that fellow forwards Aiden Tolman and Tony Williams are delivering their fair share.
Jamie Soward again delivered for the Panthers in the Qualifying Final, proving he can be a big game match winner by slotting the field goal against the Roosters. The Panthers won both games against the Bulldogs in the regular season, but only by an aggregate total of eight points. It all points to another incredibly close game, so the likes of Soward, Matt Moylan and Trent Hodkinson may be called upon for late heroics.
Public transport to and from ANZ Stadium is included with all pre-purchased tickets to both NRL finals this weekend, including Sydney Olympic Park Special Event buses operating on the usual routes. There are also special “fan express” trains departing from Belmore and Penrith stations respectively and running express to Olympic Park.
Saturday 27th September, ANZ Stadium Homebush 19:55
Click here for ticket details