Western Sydney showdown in store for NRL Grand Final

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary insists that Parramatta don’t hold a psychological advantage over the Panthers heading into Sunday’s NRL Grand Final. 

The Eels beat the Panthers twice in the home-and-away season before Cleary’s men overcame their Western Sydney rivals 27-8 in week one of the playoffs. 

Parra handed Penrith their first loss of the season in Round 9, then repeated the dose in Round 20, when star skipper Nathan Cleary was sent off early for a dangerous throw. 

“It’s pretty obvious they’ve had some success against us this year … we’ve had a lot of big games against them over the last few years,” Cleary said. 

“The two games we lost, there’s some context around that. But we’ve had a lot of games with them where it could have gone either way, so no, they don’t have a mental edge over us.” 

The reigning premiers have dominated the NRL over the past three seasons, and now enter their third straight decider. 

Since the start of 2020, the Panthers have lost just five times with Nathan Cleary on their team sheet: the 2020 Grand Final against Melbourne, the 2021 qualifying final against South Sydney, and three regular-season clashes against Parramatta. 

The Eels also troubled the eventual champions in last season’s semi-final, losing 8-6 in a tussle marred by refereeing controversy. 

Co-captain Isaah Yeo believes Parra are cut out for the big games in September. 

“They’ve got a team that matches up well in this month of footy,” Yeo said. 

“They’ve got a big forward pack obviously, and they’re a really good, consistent side — so any time you’re like that as a team, you’re going to be hard to beat.”  

Parramatta are preparing for their first Grand Final since 2009, and chasing the club’s first title since 1986. 

Coach Brad Arthur wants his side to embrace the massive build-up that will accompany this Western Sydney derby decider. 

“We need to be excited about the opportunity that we’ve got and the occasion that’s going to be during the week and we need to enjoy it,” Arthur said. 

“I’ve got no idea how to handle it because I haven’t been there before. But we’re just going to take it a day at a time and then when we get there, we’re going to have a real crack in that 80 minutes and hopefully I’ve got a smile on my face at the end of the game.”

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