Grand Final hero Stephen Crichton knows exactly what it takes to beat the Bunnies, in fact he’s had a hand in a few big moments when the two sides have clashed in the past.
His premiership-winning intercept in last year’s Grand Final will never be forgotten by Panthers fans, and he even managed to pick up a stray ball and streak away and score when the sides last went to war at Accor Stadium back in Round 23.
While no one can confidently predict if the 21-year-old has another pivotal moment up his sleeve this Saturday evening, he is the man most likely to pull a rabbit out of the hat (no pun intended) if Penrith need some magic to get them across the line.
When asked by the Weekender on Monday afternoon if he had another spectacular intercept or play left in him, Crichton responded with a grin:
“I’ll see what happens, hey.”
The NSW Origin centre will play in his third straight Preliminary Final on Saturday evening when the Panthers travel to Sydney Olympic Park to battle old foes South Sydney.
The rivalry between the two clubs may only be a few years old, but it’s still charged up with plenty of emotion and spice with the two sides having played against each other in three big Finals games over the past two seasons.
“It just shows what a quality side South Sydney are. I’m just really excited to match up with them again, really excited,” Crichton emphasised.
“We’re not intimidated by them but every team, especially this time of year, have all made it for a reason and they’ve got threats across the park. We’ll be prepping hard this week and hopefully see how it goes on Saturday.”
Unlike South Sydney, who had to face a rather disappointing Cronulla side in an Elimination Final, Penrith enjoyed last weekend off to prepare for Saturday’s massive Grand Final Qualifier.
Crichton admitted to not watching the Sharks v Rabbitohs clash live due to a family gathering.
“I actually didn’t watch it. I was out with family, we had a BBQ and bonfire and just sat around each other,” he said.
“I had my older brothers sitting there watching the game, so I was getting some updates off them, but I wasn’t watching the game.”
Despite not catching the live broadcast, Crichton and his teammates will be more than ready for what South Sydney throw at them come Saturday evening.
“We had our fun over the weekend, getting away from footy and now that we are back at training, we’re all switched on and it’s all eyes for this week,” Crichton said.
“Personally, I just try and prepare myself the best that I can for it. I remember my first Finals Series [in 2020], everything was just happening so fast and since then, I’ve learned to stay calm in big games.”
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.