We've made it to the Grand Final and possibly just in the nick of time as a COVID-19 outbreak threatens Brisbane.
The Panthers head into the big one confident that they can make up for their final hurdle stumble last year, while the Rabbitohs only have to look back a few weeks for all the confidence they need to beat the Panthers again.
The Rabbitohs last lifted the trophy in 2014 with victory over the Bulldogs, while the Panthers have not won the premiership since Scott Sattler's miracle tackle against the Roosters in 2003. This will be South Sydney's 22nd title, while the Panthers are looking to take their tally to three.
It promises to be an exciting finale to another unusual season.
Good luck with your tip.
Sunday, October 3
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Stephen Crichton 3.Paul Momirovski 4. Matt Burton 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7.Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 17. Liam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 11.Viliame Kikau 14. Tyrone May 15. Scott Sorensen 16. Spencer Leniu Reserves: 18. Brent Naden 19. Mitch Kenny 20. J'maine Hopgood 21. Charlies Staines
Rabbitohs: 1. Blake Taaffe 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dane Gagai 4. Campbell Graham 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Mark Nicholls 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Tatola 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Cameron Murray Bench: 14. Benji Marshall 15. Jacob Host 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Jai Arrow Reserves: 18. Taane Milne 19. Patrick Mago 20. Braidon Burns 21. Jed Cartwright
Verdict: The Rabbitohs will kick-off this Grand Final with enormous confidence in their ability to defeat the Panthers. They did so just three short weeks ago at the beginning of their finals journey. On that day they bustled the Panthers off their game and cashed in on their own precision backline attacking play.
Souths were fully expected to fade from the premiership race when they lost star fullback Latrell Mitchell to suspension, but in Blake Taaffe they have unveiled a future star of the game and he has slotted straight into their lethal backline. He will be tested once again by Nathan Cleary's cloud-scraping floating bombs, but apart from one early miss, he proved himself capable under the high ball three weeks ago.
Halfback Adam Reynolds has a dodgy groin, but he will be keen to end his time at the club with a win and one final performance that makes further mockery of the decision to let him go. Cody Walker will be the key to how many points the Rabbitohs score, as he sparks most attacking raids. They just have to make sure they continue their improved defensive efforts of late, to keep the Panthers from scoring too many tries.
The Panthers recovered from their shock loss to the Rabbitohs, to grind out two very gritty wins over the Eels and Storm. Both victories were built on stellar defensive efforts, with the Panthers tackling everything that moved, scrambling to shut down any line breaks and working together on the goal line to form an almost impenetrable wall. They will need to be on their game to stop the Rabbitohs.
The Panthers have scored a total of 28 points in their three finals appearances, which is very un-Penrith like in a season where they averaged over 28 points per game. Could they be ready to explode in attack and put a score on the Rabbitohs, who have struggled in defence at times this season?
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary showed last week, with the goal line cross field kick borrowed from the Roosters, that he is not afraid to experiment in order to crack a defence. He will have learned a lot from their loss three weeks ago and will have fine tuned his game plan to best exploit any Rabbitohs weaknesses. His team have the experience of playing in last year's decider, as well as the determination to not finish the day in second place again.
Everything points to a Panthers victory, but they do have to get past the Grand Final master Wayne Bennett. If any coach has the tools to overcome an opposition advantage in the biggest game of the year, it is Bennett.
Let's just hope it's a good, close game, with the players deciding the outcome, free of any controversy or undue influence from the match officials.
Tip: Panthers by 10
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.