The Titanic Personal Battle That Could Decide the Grand Finale and the Churchill Medal

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The Titanic Personal Battle That Could Decide the Grand Finale and the Churchill Medal

Looking back on winning the 2010 Grand Final, it was such a whirlwind week.

We were part of a special Dragons team where you just had to do your job, like we were working on a production line.

If we’re building a car and you have to put on the left tire, and I have to put on the steering wheel, if we’re worried about what’s going on in the trunk, we’re not going to do our job right.

Sometimes it’s about stars and sometimes it’s about being a great team and we were. We didn’t have three or four immortals.

Look at Penrith and South Sydney and the 17 guys running out of it tonight, they’ve got their job to do. It’s not about finding an emotional level.

If you don’t do your job, you can’t win the game, no matter how well someone else plays.

Looking at the Panthers last year, I felt like they were ambushed early on and they didn’t know how to react to that.

They had guys trying too hard in the game and trying to find that extra level when it wasn’t really necessary. All they had to do was think about their jobs and do what they’d been doing all year to get into that position.

Wayne Bennett’s message to South Sydney will simply be: do your job. Yes, ‘we’ll have to come up with some plays, and not everything will be perfect’. Then of course the match winners take over. That’s why they’re in those positions and they get paid all that money.

With Penrith you have to think about the grief from last year, the 12 months they had to return to this day and the relief of beating Melbourne psychologically, and what it has done for that team. They looked transformed against the Storm.

Defensively, they were excellent the entire last series, with just 24 points. When we won in 2010, we got 18 points in the final.

Penrith’s defense has kept them in games and helped them win games. There would have been talk of the grief storyline and ‘we’ve been here before, guys’.

Then you flip the script on the other side and look at South Sydney. They have the most experienced Grand Final coach of all time, they have one of the top 10 ‘games’ of all time in Benji Marshall, and with Adam Reynolds they have a Premiership winner in the top position in the number seven.

I see this week as a battle of: will this great defensive side of the past two years do it again, and then get their position players in enough field position to come up with some plays, against South Sydney’s great attacking efforts and their ability to to be desperate during this final run.

Obviously, the clash of number seven Adam Reynolds and Nathan Cleary will be a huge one.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

I’m still completely confused as to why Souths is letting a premium number seven like Reynolds go after this game, at a time when sevens are so expensive.

It is not only his game management, but also his goals that they may regret losing.

The ability to turn four points into six is ​​what wins you big games and Reynolds has done that.

He also played his best football to get Cody Walker into position.

Walker, and Jarome Luai for the Panthers, have had great seasons, but they can’t do it without those number seven who put them in position, with passes when they need it, not necessarily when they want it.

For Reynolds, who is a local lad, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if he got to hold that trophy as captain in his last game.

I spent a lot of time with Adam. We chatted a bit about the shop at the Sydney Kings, where we are both ambassadors.

He is a very smart thinker. He sees the game three or four games ahead. He’s trying to win that field position, not always for that set now, but maybe in five or six minutes when they can reap the rewards.

It’s hard to explain that to young halfbacks. A great kick in the first minute can set us up for a try in the sixth or seventh minute. He’s been one of the best in the game for the past five or six years to do that.

It appears that Reynolds has a minor injury. It will be interesting to see how he attacks early and if he takes the goal kicks. That could be a huge blow to Souths if he can’t.

Blake Taaffe is sensational, but Reynolds is your short game and out of trouble kicker. That against Nathan Cleary’s kick roster is key.

How the Churchill Medal Could Be Determined?

While that sevens battle is huge, the matchup I’m really looking forward to is between the two No.9s.
Api Koroisau is not the player we saw for Origin, where some suggested he could take the place of Damien Cook.

As the season progressed, he lost that ability to generate momentum around the ruck and play the ball quickly, suppressing Penrith’s attack.

He must be able to come out and turn players back. Guys like James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota and Viliame Kikau when they play the ball fast then he is at his best.

It will be a battle for him against Cook, who has probably had his best final run of the past four years. Because he did, they got off to a really good start, slammed the front door with Mark Nicholls and Tevita Tatola, and then Cook didn’t come out sideways, he actually went straight, and Tom Burgess and Jai Arrow have that fast play the balls.

How important is the battle of Koroisau and Cook? If Penrith wins I think the Clive Churchill medalist will be Koroisau or Dylan Edwards, and if South Sydney wins it will be Cook.

Penrith’s most important man behind the scenes

While it’s clear to see what coaches Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett have accomplished to bring their teams to the decision, Penrith defense coach Cameron Ciraldo is to be commended.

You just have to listen to the team talk about how hard he is working on their structures and see what they have done in that space to realize its impact.

Discipline and desire are both important. They scramble for everything, but they don’t just make decisions.

The rare times they got in trouble was because of a really good opponent play, when they executed everything perfectly.

That’s unlike other teams where, through desperation or loss of concentration, players make decisions on their own and get out of line to stop a game and can’t get there.

At Penrith, it’s about working hard from the inside out and getting the player to fold, and we’ll work together as a team.

When you’re in those structures and you’ve successfully made big plays, you gain trust with your teammates. That increases with desperation in the game, but you don’t have to analyze it too much.

Too often with defensive teams one guy makes a bad reading on one edge and the other guy stays out and that disconnects because they don’t trust each other. Penrith trust each other and in recent months we have seen South Sydney do that.

I worked with Cameron when I was Penrith and played against him. He is very detailed in what he does.

He’s got that nice mix of knowing when to flip the switch and how to socialize and kick it up a notch with his teammates too. I think a lot of those young guys at Penrith really appreciate that approach as they hit him in the under-20s.

I’ve always found that when you talk footy to Cirro, he’s a thinker, and he really listens to what you’re saying, takes it all in.

For a footy nerd like me, you talk to Adam Reynolds and Cameron Ciraldo when they talk about shop and it’s really exciting.

Cirro would make a fantastic NRL head coach. You need to have some experience in various positions, and he has been successful in that.

But he will know that starting head coaches will not walk into a top team, they will start in a team that is struggling. You have to be able to make that leap and work in your own systems and try to get the best out of players.

Cameron has had a fair education. He has been part of that successful branding to bring in youngsters and every club wants to get their local juniors through like Penrith. At the Dragons, we’re trying to do that now and we’ve got a crop there that we’ve had this year.

Cameron’s detail and proven ability to pass juniors would be a major asset to any club.

Why I tip Penrith

I had my prediction ready at the beginning of the week and wrote down 24-10 to Penrith.

Their defensive quality hasn’t dropped in two years. And no matter how much their attack struggles, if you have that base to go back to defensively, it’s such an important part.

Souths has had it for the past two and a half months, but the body of work is bigger for Penrith.

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