Geyer tips Sharks to end their drought
Former Panthers legend Mark Geyer believes Sunday's grand final will come down to destiny, and that's why he's tipping the Sharks to end their 50-year premiership drought against the Storm.
Since entering the competition in 1967, the men from the Shire have yet to enjoy premiership success with the Sharks losing the 1973, 1978 and 1997 (Super League) deciders to leave their trophy cabinet emptier than a fuel tank at the end of the Bathurst 1000.
But according to the co-host of Triple M Sydney's Grill Team, Cronulla's current crop of stars are about to write themselves into the history books.
"The grand final comes down to destiny, and that's why I think the Sharks will win," Geyer told NRL.com.
"In the last five or six years, there's been that type of fairytale win. We saw it with the Dragons in 2010, then the Roosters in 2013 with Sonny Bill Williams, the Rabbitohs the following year, and then the Cowboys last year.
"There's a bit of nostalgia and history on the Sharks' side. I think the fact that they've got a couple of players who have been there and done that helps.
"The Storm have been there five times in the past decade, and while they won't admit it up front, there's no doubt that a little bit of complacency could drift into their mindset.
"I just think everything is pointing to a Cronulla win."
Having suffered premiership heartbreak in the 1990 decider, Geyer and his Panthers rebounded the following year to defeat the Canberra Raiders in the 1991 rematch.
He said he and his teammates enjoyed themselves a little bit too much in the build-up to their first grand final, but admitted it was an important learning curve that ultimately helped them to turn it around 12 months later.
"In those days Penrith was a two-hour trip to get to from the city. You could almost say we were a country town back then," he said.
"Once we made the grand final, the celebrations started straightaway, and we kind of thought that that was good enough just to get to the grand final.
"We were having civic receptions and street parades and things like that before we even got to the grand final breakfast where we over-indulged in our rooms at the Regent because you can take the boys out of Penrith, but you can't take Penrith out of the boys. We probably celebrated too much before the game.
"We were very lucky that the night of our grand final loss, four of us got picked on the Kangaroos tour and we gained a lot of experience from that.
"Even though we were behind at half-time the following year in the grand final, I knew we'd win. It was that sense of destiny. Royce Simmons was playing his last game, Canberra had a few wounded superstars, and I just knew it was our time to win Penrith's first comp.
"I see something very similar happening to the Sharks this year."
Geyer encouraged Cronulla's youngsters to enjoy their first taste of grand final week, but warned them not to become burdened by the hype.
"There's definitely a fine line between the two," he said.
"You've got to embrace the week to a point where it's manageable and not manic. If you find yourself thinking 'oh not this again, I'd prefer to be resting' then it becomes a problem.
"The first few days should be about enjoying the week, but come Thursday, you should switch into game mode where your sole purpose is winning the big one."
While he expects James Maloney and Paul Gallen to be the keys on Sunday night, Geyer said the experience of veteran Luke Lewis would be telling in the days leading up to the match.
"Luke Lewis played his best game in two or three years on the weekend and he brings that experience of a premiership all those years ago," he continued.
"I liked his advice to some of his younger teammates earlier in the week when he told them to embrace it because it can be a long time between drinks when it comes to playing in a grand final.
"The majority of the Storm have been there and done that. They've got the best coach and captain, and all the stats point to a Melbourne win, but I just think the Sharks are going to be hungrier."