I call it the rule of three.
Three players the Panthers will rely on to help keep the premiership trophy at Penrith and the three opposition players the Panthers have to keep quiet if they are to win back-to-back titles.
So, to kick things off, the three players I think will need to have a key role for Penrith are Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary and Api Koroisau.
I know I’ve just named the spine and it’s kind of an obvious selection, but it’s so true.
First up, the work Dylan Edwards does at fullback is ridiculous. He’s playing in an era where we have freaks like James Tedesco and Tom ‘Turbo’ in the same position otherwise Edwards would be the incumbent NSW Origin fullback. Yes, he’s that good. He reads the play so well and his incredible fitness allows him to cover ground not every fullback can. His defence is also rock-solid and he barely drops a ball.
Of course, Nathan Cleary is the key which fits every lock. At 24 he’s playing inspired football and is the general of the team. Cleary’s kicking game is superb, his bombs are explosive and his running game just keeps getting better. He sees the game in slow motion and if he spots a weakness, he’ll exploit it.
Finally, hooker Api Koroisau is in career best form. Nothing against Mitch Kenny but the side really comes alive when Api comes on. He’s smart, crafty, bamboozles the markers and knows when to run and when to pass. Close to the line, his decision making and passing game is near faultless.
On the other side of the fence, the three key players for the Parramatta Eels are Gutherson, Moses and Reagan Campbell-Gillard. Yes, you read that right, RCG is a key player not Reed Mahoney.
Fullback Clint Gutherson is an outstanding fullback and a great leader. He often inspires his team from the back with great saves and wonderful runs. He is a smart footballer who knows how to read a game.
Halfback Mitchell Moses is THE player the Eels cannot win without. He is their main kicking weapon and he creates most of Parramatta’s try scoring opportunities. We saw the impact of him not being there in the Qualifying Final.
Finally, former Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard is the leader of the pack. When he’s on, eating up the metres up the middle, the rest of the Eels pack follows his example.
And that’s the rule of three….times two.
Panthers to win by 8.
Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.