Their desire need not be questioned, their motivation remains clear.
One win away from an Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Final berth, the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will lay it all on the line when the pair meet at Leichhardt Oval this Sunday.
Sub-plots and intricacies only add extra spice to an already tantalising affair – the winner to book a date with either the Wyong Roos or the NZ Warriors in the decider, pending that earlier clash’s outcome.
At the helm of the Panthers charge in 2016, Bulldogs coach Steve Georgallis will be out to ensure his former side is left to rue what might have been. Guiding Penrith to an 8th-placed finish last season, only to be bundled out of the Finals in Week 1, the Canterbury mentor has his sights set on going all the way this year.
One of the most consistent sides throughout the season, the Bulldogs will need to find every ounce of their graft and grind to overcome a freshened Penrith outfit.
Narrowly pipped by the Roos in Week 1 of the Finals, Georgallis’ men put fears of a ‘straight-sets’ exit from the title race to bed with a solid showing against the defending premiers Illawarra, last weekend.
The Panthers meanwhile sat back and watched on with a keen eye, having scored an impressive win over the Warriors in their Week 1 Qualifying Final.
Twice the Panthers and Bulldogs have met this season, and twice has the Penrith side walked away without the competition points.
Going head-to-head in Round 5, the Bulldogs edged out Garth Brennan’s side by four points, before proving too good to the tune of 14-4 in their return bout in Round 15.
Where It Will Be Won
In a personal clash not to miss, Mitch Rein and Craig Garvey go head-to-head in an all-enticing battle of the number nines.
Naturally so, Rein and Garvey have more possessions than any other member of their respective teams, and so arguably a greater bearing on the result than each of the remaining 32 players on show.
Garvey was instrumental in all things the Bulldogs did well in the side’s Semi Final win over Illawarra, while Rein capped a stellar 2017 season by being crowned the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Hooker of the Year.
Watch for both men to run when chances present themselves, looking to catch the markers adrift. Their ability to do so, at the right time, may just be enough to earn a vital penalty.
In a match where a two-point margin wouldn’t surprise, the guile around the ruck will be crucial – and it all starts with Rein and Garvey.
The NSWRL senior competitions’ finals series, covered like never before on NSWRL.com.au and the NSWRL Facebook page, culminate on Grand Final Day at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday 24 September. Be there to witness history, with tickets just $10 for adults and children under 12 free.