Excitement – a word synonymous with rugby league deciders – was in no short supply at New South Wales Rugby League’s Grand Final Day, held at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, September 28. For the first time in the organisation’s history, a standalone day showcased the best rugby league talent in New South Wales’ open-age competitions – and what an event it proved.
A golden-point thriller in Ron Massey Cup, a nail-biting finish to the Sydney Shield and a powerhouse performance from the Penrith Panthers provided a treat for spectators, and there was plenty of action off the field too.
NSWRL Media sat down with NSW VB Blues coach Laurie Daley for his thoughts on the day, a triple treat that saw past Origin stars Ryan O’Hara and Timana Tahu take to the field, accompanied by an abundance of past and current NRL players who boasted plenty of experience and talent. Daley said the event highlighted the pathways the NSWRL provides players at all levels of the game.
“The fans loved it – they were really high-quality games of footy and all they really got involved in the day,” Daley said.
“There is not only a pathway for young players but a pathway for senior players who have been involved at the highest level, to stay involved in our game and show young guys how it’s done. That’s very important that we don’t lose those players to the game because they all have something to offer. To see those guys running around on Sunday, ex-Origin players, ex-first-graders who have played a number of games in those competitions, was great.
“The best thing is it will only get better!”
It’s clear Daley believes New South Wales Rugby League has secure foundations for success in the years ahead, staging competitions that combine the talents of younger players with the experience of past NRL stars.
“When you play with the senior guys who have experienced the professional level, when you integrate them with the young guys who are on their way through the system, they get an idea of what it takes to be successful and what it takes to play a game of football and I think that’s invaluable,” Daley said.
“More people understand what the VB NSW Cup is about and our pathways programs. The footy on display was excellent.”
Sunday’s ‘festival of footy’, rated a huge success by those in attendance, saw entertainment both on and off the field. In the forecourt, for example, kids lined up to pass the ball alongside past stars Luke Burt, Michael Crocker and Michael Vella, while others utilised the jumping castles, savoured sausage sandwiches and ran the ‘bungee gauntlet’.
This week the winners of the VB NSW Cup Grand Final, the Penrith Panthers, face the Northern Pride in the first National State Championships. Daley predicts the Panthers will win by 10 points – and young gun Kieran Moss will shine after scoring a hat-trick on the weekend.