A tense exchange between Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and a journalist during the post-match media conference following the loss to the Rabbitohs probably summed up perfectly Penrith’s chances of winning the 2021 NRL Premiership.
“Ivan you’ve got to go the long way now, historically it’s been impossible (to win the comp after losing game one), can they do it?”
“Impossible is it?” Cleary questioned.
“Very hard to do,” responded the reporter.
“You said impossible,” bristled Cleary before smiling.
“My mistake,” the journo corrected himself.
But the supposition wasn’t completely incorrect. It will be tough to win the comp from here. Since 2007, only the North Queensland Cowboys have done it. Will Penrith be only the second team in the past 15 years to do it?
Souths, the team who beat the Panthers 16-10, are no certainties either.
For no team has won the competition after conceding 50 points in a season. The Bunnies had 50 put on them twice this year but enough about them.
The question is, have Penrith missed a golden opportunity to side-step Melbourne and catapult themselves into a Grand Final? It certainly looks that way.
Directly after the game against the Bunnies I definitely thought so. I was seething with anger. There’s no doubt Wayne Bennett won the battle of the mind games, he had the refs running for cover, penalising and warning Penrith players on the run for the very things he bought up earlier in the week.
As far as I was concerned, the Panthers were gone for the season. I doubted whether they could recover their confidence in time to beat anyone this weekend.
Thankfully I’m a supporter and not a player or a coach. Unlike yours truly, they are made of sterner stuff. On Sunday morning the sun came up and I started to believe again. Difference is, the players probably never stopped believing in the first place.
To make the Grand Final Penrith first have to beat the Eels and then back up and defeat the red-hot Premiership favourites, the Melbourne Storm the week after.
To me, beating the Eels is definitely something the boys will do. Beating the Storm, I can’t see it happening. I want them to so badly but at the moment I just can’t see it. To me it looks like ‘Mission Impossible’ if I’m being honest.
Then I hear Ivan’s words in my head, asking me the same question he did last Saturday night in the press conference.
“Impossible is it?” he says.
“Very hard to do,” I respond.
“You said impossible,” Ivan fires back.
“My mistake,” I answer with a nervous smile.
He smiles back and thinks, ‘Thank God you’re not one of my players’. To them, nothing is impossible.
I can’t wait for the boys to prove me and a lot of other so-called ‘experts’ wrong.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.