NRL State Championship Preview
Penrith Panthers Vs Northern Pride
ANZ Stadium, Sunday, October 5
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Channel 9
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ABC (Link available via ABC Grandstand)
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of 2GB (Link available via 2GB.com)
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio (Link available via Hawkesbury Radio)
PANTHERS - 1. KIERAN MOSS 2. ETO NABULI 3. WAQA BLAKE 4. KEVIN NAIQAMA 5. WES NAIQAMA 6. LUKE CAPEWELL 7. TOM HUMBLE 8. SAM ANDERSON 9. KEVIN KINGSTON 10. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD 11. BEN MURDOCH MASILA 12. NATHAN SMITH 13. RYAN SIMPKINS 14. VAIPUNA TIA KILIFI 15. KIERRAN MOSELEY 16. LEILANI LATU 17. ANDY SAUNDERS COACH: GARTH BRENNAN
PRIDE – 1. HEZRON MURGHA 2. JAVID BOWEN 3. BRETT ANDERSON © 4. KYLE FELDT 5. SEMI TADULALA 6. SHAUN NONA 7. SAM OBST 8. RICKY THORBY 9. JASON ROOS © 10. ETHAN LOWE 11. BLAKE LEARY 12. TYRONE MCCARTHY 13. BEN SPINA 14. RYAN GHIETTI 15. SHELDON POWE-HOBBS 16. DAVIN CRAMPTON 17. JACK SVENDSEN 18. TOM HANCOCK 21. PATRICK KAUFUSI COACH: JASON DEMETRIOU
It is the match that fans have wanted on the schedule for a long time and we finally get it. The best of the best will face off this Sunday when the Intrust Super Cup Premiers, the Northern Pride, make the trip south to tackle our VB NSW Cup champs, the Penrith Panthers. And after such a long wait it is only fitting that we do indeed get the two best sides facing off for the inaugural State Championship, with both of these teams sharing eerily similar records in 2014.
Both finished as runaway Minor Premiers, sharing a 20 wins and four losses record at the end of their respective regular seasons and then progressed through their finals series without too much drama.
The Panthers saluted last week 48-12 in a thoroughly dominant win over the Knights while the Pride were also very impressive as they hammered last year’s Intrust Super Cup Premiers, the Easts Tigers, 36-4, a side that they had snuck past 8-7 in a gripping encounter just a fortnight earlier.
Statistically speaking there is very little between these two clubs defensively, with the Pride holding a slight advantage conceding just a shade over 16 points per game in 2014 while the Panthers conceded just a tick over 17 points a game. But in terms of offence, the Panthers clearly hold sway as they have scored a staggering 875 points at an average of just over 32 a game while the Pride have managed to post 721 points at an average of just under 28 points per game.
In terms of big game experience, the Panthers should be well served as the side that they have named has no less than 10 players with NRL experience combining for some 600 matches at the top grade. In comparison, the Pride will be hoping the likes of Thorby, Feldt, Lowe and Leary can bring their experience on the big stage to ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Despite not necessarily having the same depth in terms of NRL experience, the Pride still have a number of players such as Hezron Murgha, Javid Bowen and Shaun Nona who have all tasted representative football up north with the QLD Residents so they shouldn’t be overawed by the occasion.
There are some truly mouth-watering matchup’s right across the park, but none more so than the clash between the two halfbacks. Ironically enough, Tom Humble will be out to deny one of his former clubs the Championship that they will be so desperately seeking, as the former Cowboy and Pride halfback attempts to lead the Panthers to the title. On the flipside of the coin, Sam Obst will be out to lead the Pride to a Premiership in the veterans second season with the club after Jason Demetriou brought the journeyman half home from England in 2013.
Another clash that will hopefully come to fruition is the one between young guns Waqa Blake and Kyle Feldt. Both of these two players look set for long and illustrious NRL careers and possess brilliant athletic ability. They are both adept under the high ball but also have the speed and power required to get the job done at ground level as well.
Both sides have lost a player from their respective premiership winning teams with Issah Yeo ruled out through injury suffered late in the first half last week while Joel Riethmuller will miss out after he was suspended following last week’s decider up north.
Despite being red hot favourites, the Panthers will need to be on guard as to not be ambushed by the team from north Queensland. Although the Panthers have won 23 of their past 25 since dropping their opening two games of the year, they have had a tendency at times to start slowly at times in 2014 and the Pride will no doubt come out all guns blazing in an attempt to get on the front foot early.
In the end of the day, we can talk about all of the stats and potential match ups all we want, but given that these two teams ply their trade in different competitions, there is really no way to anticipate just how the two sides will match up. On paper it appears as if the Pride’s defence will have the final say on their winning prospects. The last time the Panthers were held to under 30 points was back in Round 24 when they posted 18 points in torrential conditions at Leichhardt Oval. Given the forecast is for great weather on Sunday, the Panthers attack will need to be blunted by the visitors if they are to be any chance of nabbing the National Championship.
Prediction: We have seen too many QLD sides written off over the years only to come out and stun the so called experts with a performance that made a mockery of their underdog status. The bookmakers have the Panthers winning easily, and while we agree that they should be winning, you tend to think it will be anything but easy. Panthers by 8.