Penrith’s past Premiership-winning captains Greg Alexander and Craig Gower know exactly what it’s like to have the weight of an entire city on their shoulders.
While current skipper James Tamou will feel that weight of expectation for himself this Sunday night, Alexander and Gower strongly believe they’ll be adding a third member to their exclusive Captain’s Club come full-time.
Alexander, who guided Penrith to their first Premiership in 1991, said Grand Final week is always exciting but even more so this year that the Panthers are involved.
“Grand Finals are fantastic, to be involved this year is very special,” he said.
“Grand Final week is always very exciting; the memories keep flooding back. After seeing replays of past Grand Finals on Fox all week, it’s a completely different feeling now that the boys are in it.”
Alexander said winning Penrith’s first title 29 years ago will always hold a special place in his heart, but it’s the 2003 Grand Final win over the Sydney Roosters that excites him more.
“I only just joined the Panthers’ Board in 2003, so that was a good omen,” he said.
“I think I was way more excited when we won in ‘03 than ‘91, because it’s a different kind of feeling when you’re not playing.
“This year will be pretty much the same. If we can get up over Melbourne, wow it would cap off what’s been incredible year.”
This Sunday’s blockbuster against the Storm will be the first time Penrith have contested an NRL Grand Final since Craig Gower led his magic team to victory 17 years ago.
Speaking with the Weekender, Gower said it’s been an exciting and history-making season for Penrith that still has one more chapter left to write.
“It’s always good to see the Panthers doing well,” he said.
“I know firsthand what it means to the community if our football team is winning, so hopefully they’ll get the chocolates on Sunday.”
Prior to the pandemic, Gower spent some time in Penrith’s gym and one thing caught his eye that he’ll never forget.
“I saw how the team was progressing. I witnessed the camaraderie between the boys, and I think that’s excelled as they gained momentum during the season,” he said.
“Going on a winning streak the way they have has been fantastic for them and it’s certainly put them in a great position now.”
Just like his side in 2003 against the Roosters, Penrith will go into this weekend’s game as outsiders with the bookmakers.
Gower said their underdog status shouldn’t affect them as long as they are prepared and switched on.
“The big thing is not being overawed by the situation,” he said.
“They just have to go through the same processes as they have all year and just enjoy the moment.
“I know the boys will do that, they just seem to have a level head on them. With the confidence they’re showing and the way they are playing for each other, being underdogs shouldn’t be a problem.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.