NRL Grand Final 2022: Penrith Panthers Preview

The Panthers have long seemed destined for the 2022 NRL Grand Final, and this Sunday that’s exactly where they’ll be. This will be their third in a row, and if they win will mark the first time in the club’s history that they will have won consecutive Premierships. With that in mind, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the team in the lead-up to the big game, from their journey to the Grand Final to their predicted line up and key stats.


Penrith Panthers Journey To The Grand Final

The Panthers entered the 2022 season with suitably high expectations following their thrilling Grand Final win from the year before, and they started the year looking every bit the Premiership favourite. They kicked the season off with a dominant 28-6 win over the Sea Eagles, and two months into the year they remained undefeated. That all changed in Round 9 when they went down by two points to the team they will this week play in the Grand Final, the Eels, but it was little more than a blip on the radar; the next week they smashed the Storm by 26 points, and by season’s end they compiled a 20-4 record and a two-game buffer at the top of the ladder.

Entering the finals they were clearly the team to beat, and that didn’t change after their qualifying final, in which they got revenge over the Eels side which beat them twice in the home and away season with a comfortable 27-8 victory. Following a week off, they headed to Accor Stadium to face a dangerous Rabbitohs team looking for revenge of their own after last year’s Grand Final defeat at the hands of the Panthers, and half an hour in they looked a good chance to get it, having established a 12-0 lead. The Panthers, however, quickly reminded everyone why they are the best team in the comp. Two tries in five minutes before half time tied up the scores, and they continued on their merry way in the second half, scoring 20 points to nothing to race away to a 32-12 lead and earn their third consecutive Grand Final appearance.

Panthers Team News

The Panthers have close to a clean bill of health, and both Viliame Kikau and Charlie Staines will be free to play in the decider after they got off with fines for Grade 1 Shoulder Charges which they picked up in the preliminary final win over the Rabbitohs. The biggest talking point from a team perspective this week will surround Taylan May, who is likely to be touch and go to appear on Grand Final Day as he recovers from a hamstring injury suffered in the Panthers’ qualifying final win over the Eels.

NRL Grand Final Preview – Panthers Perspective

The Panthers have hardly had a hiccup all season – of their four losses this year, three came in the last six weeks of the regular season when they had already all but locked up top spot – so it’s little surprise that they profile every bit like a Premiership team. They were dominant both offensively and defensively this season, scoring more points than every other side with the exception of the Storm and conceding the least by a comfortable margin.

Statistically, there are few key areas in which they aren’t among the top teams in the league. They control possession better than any other team in the league and their set completion rate of 81% is the best in the business, while they’re also top five for linebreaks, post contact metres and tackle breaks. Courtesy of superstar Nathan Cleary they are top of the league for conversion percentage, they lead the league in kick return metres, their average number of errors per game is far and away the best in the league, and the list goes on.

Individually, a clear strength for the Panthers is their halves combination of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, the former of whom will be eyeing off a second consecutive Clive Churchill Medal. He was brilliant three weeks ago when Penrith beat Parramatta and was again instrumental in his side’s comeback against the Rabbitohs last week, and if he and Luai can control the game like they have so often before it will go a long way to ensuring a Penrith victory. 

Add to that the experience this team has in big games, an inevitable by-product of back to back Grand Final appearances and last year’s Premiership, and you’ve got a team that is very, very difficult to beat. They believe that they are the best team in the league, and for good reason; they are, but that belief makes them even more dangerous, and is yet another reason why they have been the nominal Premiership favourite all year long.

Panthers Predicted Line Up

  1. Dylan Edwards
  2. Charlie Staines
  3. Izack Tago
  4. Stephen Crichton
  5. Brian To’o
  6. Jarome Luai
  7. Nathan Cleary
  8. Moses Leota
  9. Api Koroisau
  10. James Fisher-Harris
  11. Viliame Kikau
  12. Liam Martin
  13. Isaah Yeo


  1. Mitch Kenny
  2. Scott Sorensen
  3. Spencer Leniu
  4. Jaeman Salmon

Players To Watch

It might be the obvious answer, but Nathan Cleary is unequivocally the most significant player for the Panthers and indeed the game overall. At just 24, he is already in the process of putting together one of the great careers, and with a Clive Churchill Medal and Premiership already to his name he can further establish himself as the league’s poster boy by playing a key role in another Panthers triumph. After a lengthy suspension at the end of the home and away season, he has wasted no time in returning to some of his best form over the finals series so far, and his performance will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game.

Penrith Panthers Stats

Dylan Edwards leads the league in kick return metres by a huge margin, with 2,174 to his name this season; second place has just 1,410.

The Panthers have conceded the least points in the league per game in each of the past three years.

Penrith have lost more games than they’ve won in their history at Accor Stadium, but in recent times their record is a lot more favourable; they’ve won six of their last seven games there, with the only loss in that time coming in the 2020 Grand Final.

Penrith Panthers Record In Grand Finals

This will be the sixth time the Panthers have played in a Grand Final, and in their previous five their record is 3-2. Their wins came in 1991, 2003 and 2021, while their losses were in 1990 and 2020.

Panthers Head To Head vs Eels

The Panthers don’t have a great record against the Eels. The two sides have met on 106 occasions in total, with Parramatta winning 60 of those, Penrith winning 45, and one game ending in a draw.

Betting Markets

Penrith to win outright – $1.35

Penrith -8.5 – $1.90

Nathan Cleary to win the Clive Churchill Medal – $2.85

Penrith to lead at half-time/full time – $1.74



NRL Grand Final: Panthers Tips and Predictions

Penrith -8.5 @ $1.90 – The Panthers have been the dominant side all season, and whoever ended up facing them in the Grand Final was always going to go in as a relatively significant underdog, at least in the context of a Grand Final. An 8.5-point line is a big buffer to overcome on the last day of the season, but if they play at their best they should simply be too good. The only concern would be the fact that the Eels beat them on two occasions this season, which certainly provides some good ammunition for those advocating for the chances of Parramatta. When it mattered most, however, in the qualifying final a couple of weeks ago, the Panthers’ hit their straps and won by 19 points. Don’t be surprised to see a similar result this time around. 

Nathan Cleary to win the Clive Churchill Medal @ $2.85 – These are some pretty short odds for a Clive Churchill Medal given the calibre of players he has to beat to be voted best on ground for the second consecutive Grand Final, but such is the quality of Nathan Cleary. At just 24 years of age he is already writing himself into the annals of history as one of the greats, and has proven in the past that he thrives on the big stage. He enters this game in excellent form and terrorised the Eels just a few short weeks ago, and can do it again as he leads his Panthers to a second straight flag for the first time in club history.


**Odds quoted are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change.