Almanac Rugby League – 2022 NRL Grand Final week: History beckons in both the NRL and the NRLW


Regardless of who wins this weekend’s NRL and NRLW Grand Finals, history will be made. If the Knights win the NRLW title, it will be their first title; if the Eels win that game it will be their first title; if the Eels win both the NRL and NRLW titles it will be the first club to achieve that double in the same season; if the Panthers win the NRL it will give them the unique quadrella of the Jersey Flegg, NSW Cup, S G Ball and NRL titles in the one calendar year.


The NRLW Grand Final will see the Newcastle Knights take on the Parramatta Eels with both sides making their debut on the last day of the season. The Knights booked their place after they comfortably defeated the Dragons 30-6 with 2022 signings Upton, Boyle and Johnson starring. After failing to win a game in the 2021 season of the NRLW, the Knights have become the feel-good story of the past month. The Eels then provided the upset of the season when they ran out 22-10 winners over the previously undefeated Roosters. After just scraping into the finals, the Eels emulated the Roosters in the 2021 season by taking down the hot favourites, just as the Roosters did to the Broncos earlier this year.Parramatta’s Cherrington and Taufa were huge up front while fullback Broughton was impassable at the back.


The Grand Final should be a belter where I expect high scoring to be the order of the day. Newcastle has a solid forward pack, classy halves and the dynamic Upton back to her best at fullback. Parramatta also have a well-rounded pack, creative halves in Preston and Quinlan and Broughton at the back. The Knights have the edge in experience and have had a more consistent season than the Eels but the latter have timed their run well. This could go either way but I expect the Knights to get on top up front to pave the way for the likes of Dibb and Upton to take advantage with their guile, skills and pace.


The NRL Grand Final will be the Battle of Western Sydney when the defending premiers the Penrith Panthers meet the Parramatta Eels who will be chasing their first title since 1986. Parramatta won their spot with a courageous come-from-behind win against the Cowboys in Townsville. After a ‘fortuitous’ opening try to the Eels and ten minutes in the bin for Taumalolo, the Cowboys were good enough to claw back to 12-all at the break before forging to an 8-point lead after 54 minutes. I thought, “Now we’ll see what the Eels are made of” as the Cowboys looked in control in front of their raucously supportive home crowd. Well, the Eels did show us what they’re made of as they challenged the Cowboys physically, got energetic, changed the rhythm of the game and took their chances, firstly through a rampant Campbell-Gillard and then Sivo off a great Lane pass. The Cowboys lost their structure and composure as they became increasingly desperate to get back into the game. Feldt went close but just touched the sideline to void his effort. Parra defended staunchly and won both the game and quite some respect.


The Penrith v Rabbitohs match, in the end, demonstrated why Penrith have been the dominant side for the past two seasons. Souths started fast and strong, surging to a 12-0 lead inside 20 minutes. Penrith looked a tad shocked but stuck to their guns and, in the next 15 minutes, had three tries over-ruled by the Bunker, one of them controversially for obstruction (but consistent with such rulings throughout the season). Then, in a flash, the Panthers were in twice in the last 3 minutes of the half as Koroisau scampered through a tiny gap and To’o accepted a mistake as Souths pressed for a try when they might have settled for a field goal and a 7-point half-time lead. Instead it was 12-12 at the break. A try to Leniu soon after half-time took the wind out of Souths  and a try to Tago 10 minutes later was probably enough. The Panthers were relentless; Souths lost their way, lost Milne as he was sent off for a horrible tackle on Leniu, and lost the plot. Walker, so cool throughout the finals, got riled and that’s no good for the Bunnies. Mitchell was not afforded any room all night and had no influence in the game. (It was later when we discovered that he was only playing courtesy of pre-game and half-time injections.) By contrast, his Penrith counterpart Edwards seemed to have acres in which to move, speed to burn and sublime evasive skills. The final scoreline of 32-12 did not reflect Souths’ effort but they were well beaten by the final whistle.


So we come to the Grand Final. Only fools and one-eyed Parramatta supporters will tip the Eels this weekend. Penrith have been and continue to be the competition benchmark. And while they have the high-quality Cleary at half-back directing the game, their strength is there from No. 1 to No. 17. They are the complete team. And yet Parramatta have beaten them twice this year! I know this for sure – Parramatta will not die wondering. They will brawl, maul, run, defend, attack and give everything they have. Moses and Gutherson are their organisers, with the likes of Lane, Campbell-Gillard, Paulo and Mahoney the workhorses. They have talent across the park, too, but I don’t think they’re the complete squad that Penrith is; I don’t think they’re the consummate team that Penrith is. So it’s the Panthers for me. I just hope that, if they do win, Penrith show far more grace and respect  than their did with some of their egregious carry-on after last year’s Grand Final.


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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