Sunday’s NRL Grand Final pits together the two standout teams of 2023 and it sucks deluxe for the NRL.
Penrith’s fourth straight decider is a nightmare scenario for the game, with the reigning premier’s dominance now so predictable it even bores their own fans.
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Rugby league is already in the throes of Panthers Fatigue, with their unsinkable reign triggering a raft of poor attendances and Mexican waves.
And with the side as popular as a fart in a jumpsuit – plus the Sophie’s Choice scenario of supporting Brisbane – you can see why Sunday’s kick-off could be shifted to 10pm or Gem.
Forget the charismatic and fearless Broncos; not even a mass poisoning will stop Ivan Cleary’s unbeatables from three-peating.
For example, was anyone seriously gripped by Jarome Luai racing the clock last week?
Of course not.
This side could be wiped out by a dodgy Banh Mi and replaced with 12 compost bins wheeled-out by Isaiah Yeo and they’d still run roughshod over any team, provided it didn’t feature a one-legged Clint Gutherson.
Even their fans are tiring of their mundane triumphs and treating preliminary finals like a benign licence renewal.
As seen last Friday night against the Storm, the surgical demolition of one of the premier clubs of the 21st century was sheer tedium for their spoiled fans, with a Mexican wave kicking off 20 minutes from full-time purely to stave off torpor.
Worse still, Penrith’s utter dismantling of their famed opponent occurred in a stadium almost as empty as their bandwagon.
Yep, this abrasive Panthers team is hardly the Roger Federer of footy, even despite all the backhanders and being multilingual in talking English and smack.
Sadly this leaves the neutral fan in the unenviable, unthinkable position of supporting Brisbane.
Admittedly, this intoxicating Broncos team is one of the easiest iterations to appreciate.
However, our deep-seated scorn for the club from the 90s is pretty hard to shake, meaning choosing them over Penrith still feels like siding with al-Qaeda over ISIS.
The shift towards casual support of the Broncos will no doubt rock fans when they realise what’s happening.
While the NRL is thrilled to have recaptured the Brisbane market – and the extra 100-200 AM radio listeners this will bring – it’s barely enough to eclipse the guilt of the Pahs making us all Queenslanders.
Coach Cleary continues to defend his club’s reputation, claiming their confidence is unfairly mistaken as arrogance.
However, he allegedly uttered this while pushing to the front of an ATM and dabbing over a pensioner.
Whether it’s their wild hair or wild attitudes, Penrith can’t help but leave us cowering like scared boomers — and that’s just their off-field staff.
Just look at club CEO Brian Fletcher, a man who stands atop the rugby league mountain but still complains about the view.
Notwithstanding, even despite bleating about home ground advantage or other clubs stealing his players, you have to dip your lid to him.
Somehow while working alongside names like Luai and Liam Martin, he’s still managed to be the most polarising man at the club.
Even Panthers legend Greg Alexander – one of rugby league’s nice guys – has lost the support of the public, but that wasn’t helped by associating with the NSW Blues.
Sure, you wouldn’t sentence him to life like Brad Fittler, but if he sneezed you wouldn’t bless him.
Nevertheless, it all points to one common thread — Penrith’s dictatorship is terrible for business and proves the salary cap is an ass.
If the NRL is fair dinkum about giving the rest of us losers a fair go, they’ll slap a nominal cap value of $1.4m each on Lindsay Smith and Luke Garner, preferably before kick-off.
– Dane Eldridge is a warped cynic yearning for the glory days of rugby league, a time when the sponges were magic and the Mondays were mad.
He’s never strapped on a boot in his life, and as such, should be taken with a grain of salt.