The NRL has locked in a Friday night blockbuster between 2003 Grand Finalists Penrith and the Sydney Roosters at Panthers Stadium.
The 2020 Finals will open with a first versus fourth showdown this Friday at 7.50pm.
Tickets go on sale to members tomorrow morning but COVID-19 restrictions mean only a limited crowd will be in attendance. It’s understood around 8,000 tickets will be made available.
Penrith go into the Finals on the back of 15 straight wins, completing their Minor Premiership season with a 42-0 thumping of Canterbury at ANZ Stadium yesterday.
The Roosters will commence their quest for a threepeat in an unusual situation – coming off a 60-8 thrashing at the hands of arch rivals South Sydney last Thursday.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said his side is ready for Finals after dominating the regular season.
“We’re super hungry,” he said yesterday.
“The Minor Premiership is done. It’s a new competition that starts next week with the best teams.
“I’m very confident with our own game and what we can produce.”
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the success of rule changes this season had set the scene for the fastest, most free flowing and unpredictable finals series in recent years.
“Last year Penrith missed the Top 8, this year they’re the Minor Premiers. Last week the Rabbitohs were beaten by the Bulldogs, this week they trounced the Roosters. The competition is uncompromising and after 18 uninterrupted rounds, the top 8 face off in an exciting set of games in week one of the finals,’’ he said.
“This has been a tough year and you can sense it means more to our players given how much they have had to sacrifice to make the season happen. During finals, the speed and intensity goes up a level, and you can feel the excitement and anticipation among our fans.”
Mr Abdo said Club Members would be rewarded for their loyalty with tickets starting at just $15.
“We want to thank our members who have remained loyal and paid their memberships despite being restricted in the number of games they’ve watched live this year. Our fans make our competition so strong and vibrant. This is our opportunity to thank them for that loyalty. We also understand how tough the economy is at the moment and we’ve priced our tickets accordingly,” he said.
Mr Abdo said the next seven weeks would be historic for the game.
“Never before have we seen a period like this – our elite men’s and women’s Premierships leading into our men’s and women’s State of Origins. It will be an epic history-making conclusion to a historic year,” he said.
Mr Abdo said a number of considerations went into the construction of the Finals Series schedule.
“We’ve taken into account turnaround time for our players, to ensure all clubs get a fair break between Round 20 and the start of the series. We’ve also given consideration to possible scenarios moving forward. We know how important turnaround times are for clubs at this time of the year,” he said.
“I would also like to acknowledge and thank the New South Wales, Queensland and ACT Governments who have allowed us to plan for very safe live event attendance experience in the current conditions. We will have a wonderful atmosphere for our finals series, increased crowds but all within a COVIDsafe plan for each stadium.”
The winner of the Panthers / Roosters clash will go straight to a Preliminary Final in week three of the Finals, while the loser lives to fight another day and will face the winner of the clash between Canberra and Cronulla in week two.
For those who can’t get a ticket to the game, it’ll be broadcast on both Fox League and Channel Nine, while plenty are expected to watch the clash at Panthers Leagues Club.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.