Penrith stand on the verge of accomplishing the greatest three-year streak since Parramatta’s side of the 1980s, with only the modern-day Eels standing between the Panthers and further history.
Already the most dominant team of recent seasons, Penrith will enter Sunday night’s NRL decider against Parramatta targeting their second grand final in three successive attempts.
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Only the seventh salary-cap-legal team to reach three consecutive deciders in the past 50 years, Penrith have won a remarkable 66 of the 77 games they have played since the start of 2020.
Penrith players have spent the week damping down talk of a dynasty, instead eyeing a shot at successfully defending their title.
“It’s about going back-to-back right now,” five-eighth Jarome Luai told AAP.
“For us, next year is next year. But we need to make the most of this opportunity.”
In reality, Penrith are already in the midst of a dynasty.
Of the other six teams to have reached three straight grand finals in the past 50 years, Penrith’s winning rate of 85 per cent is by far the best, while their average winning margin of 13.34 narrowly beats out the Manly team of the mid-1990s.
The only blip on Penrith’s radar remains their first-half crushing from Melbourne in the 2020 decider, when they could be accused of stage fright.
“We did learn from the first one,” coach Ivan Cleary said.
“I don’t know whether that was the team we were playing, the occasion, or both.”
Parramatta will have to gain that experience on the run.
Of the Eels, only Ryan Matterson and Bailey Simonsson have played in grand finals before while coach Brad Arthur has previously featured as an assistant, in 2013, and under-20s coach in 2009.
They have remained the story of the week, desperate to end the longest current drought in the NRL and one that stems back to their great sides of the 1980s.
Eels’ players have made a point of embracing the history with Mitch Moses speaking of his heartache at watching Parramatta’s last grand-final loss in 2009 and his desire to be the No.7 to break the drought.
But Arthur has warned the emotion must subside by Sunday, as Parramatta go back to the formula that has helped them beat Penrith three times in the past three years.
Most notably, it comes in the form of pressuring Nathan Cleary’s kicking, limiting Isaah Yeo’s time with the ball and maintaining their own offload rates.
“I don’t think our team needs any extra motivation,” Arthur said.
“We know what’s at stake. We’ve kept it as simple as we can. It’s a big game, but it’s another football game.
“You can’t play the game on emotion. We’ve got to go there. We’ve got to be able to execute our plan.
“And we’re the only ones who can take control of that.”
How the great sides of the past 50 years stack up
Played 84, Won 61.
Win-rate: 72.62 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 11.20
Played 82, Won 57.
Win-rate: 69.51 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 6.88
Played 77, Won 53.
Win-rate: 68.83 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 8.81.
Played 77, Won 66.
Win-rate 85.71 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 13.44
Played 75, won 60
Win-rate: 80 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 13.32
Played 81, Won 62.
Win-rate: 76.54 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 9.86
Sydney Roosters (2002-04)
Played 82, Won 59.
Win-rate 71.95 per cent, average for-and-against per game: 11.08.