As the NRL finals approach, the captains of the participating teams have made their predictions on who they believe will win the Grand Final. The Penrith Panthers have emerged as the favorites after an impressive season, where they only lost six games. They are now aiming to achieve the incredible milestone of winning a third straight premiership in the NRL era. Panthers captain Nathan Cleary acknowledged the success of the past two years, but emphasised that the team’s focus is now on securing another premiership as they kickstart their finals campaign with a qualifying final at home.
During the launch of the NRL finals series, rival captains expressed their belief that the Panthers are the team to beat. Adam Reynolds confidently stated that the Panthers are the favorites to win the premiership. Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco concurred with Reynolds, acknowledging that both the Panthers and the Brisbane Broncos have been the top two teams throughout the season and set the benchmark for success. St. George Illawarra Dragons co-captain Tyson Frizell also tipped the Panthers to emerge victorious, acknowledging their status as the minor premiers.
The Roosters and the Cronulla Sharks will face off in an elimination final on Saturday night. Tedesco expressed his excitement about his team’s position in the finals after proving their critics wrong with consecutive wins leading up to the playoffs. He also highlighted the importance of shutting down Sharks star Nicho Hynes, who plays a key role in Cronulla’s attacking prowess. Retiring Sharks captain Wade Graham jokingly remarked that he could be unemployed if his team fails to perform in the finals, highlighting the high stakes of the competition.
Meanwhile, the Newcastle Knights enter the finals as the form team of the NRL, boasting an incredible nine-game winning streak. They will commence their finals campaign with an elimination final at home against the Canberra Raiders. Raiders captain Jarrod Croker expressed his team’s readiness for a physical and intense contest, noting that their ability to grind out victories has been a defining characteristic throughout the season.
The Knights do have concerns over the fitness of Kalyn Ponga and Jackson Hastings, but both players are expected to play through their injuries. Frizell highlighted the importance of Hastings to the Knights, praising his ability to lead the team and contribute in various aspects of the game such as kicking and defending.
In Week 1 of the NRL finals, the following matches are scheduled: the Brisbane Broncos will face off against the Melbourne Storm in a qualifying final, the Penrith Panthers will take on the New Zealand Warriors in another qualifying final, the Cronulla Sharks will go head-to-head with the Sydney Roosters in an elimination final, and the Newcastle Knights will clash with the Canberra Raiders in another elimination final. Excitement is building as the finals series begins, and rugby league fans eagerly await to see which team will emerge triumphant in the Grand Final.