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Penrith will have to dig deep to refill their tanks ahead of facing a fresh and invigorated Melbourne Storm side in this Saturday night's Suncorp Stadium showdown.

The grinding 8-6 win over Parramatta on Saturday in Mackay was an energy-sapping encounter and the Panthers haven't got the luxury the Storm have enjoyed – virtually 14 days of rest to soothe some of their aches and pains. 

Then again, revenge is a hungry beast and the Panthers appetite is still there to knock the team, that beat them last year, out of this year's finals.

These are the best two teams from the 2021 NRL club competition – 21 wins each from 24 matches.

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In head-to-head match-ups, the spoils were shared with the Panthers winning their round-three game while the Storm exacted revenge in round 20. 

Only once in the past five years (2019) did Storm not make the grand final after a week off.

Earning that rest in semi-finals week has worked a treat for Craig Bellamy's men since 2016, including winning the 2017 and 2020 premierships.

Bellamy will also want somewhere near the 90% completion rate (35-39) his players managed against Manly to inflict the same kind of possession pain against the Panthers.

Ivan Cleary will be hoping his team keeps the same sort of discipline against the Storm as they did against the Eels – just two penalties over 80 minutes.

The rundown

Team news

Storm: Star winger Josh Addo-Carr returns from a hamstring injury and said earlier this week he was running at "95 percent" and will be good to go for Saturday afternoon.

Bullocking hooker Brandon Smith was cleared of a facial fracture following a head clash with Manly's Josh Aloiai in week one and he is a confirmed starter.

Tom Eisenhuth is the 18th man with Isaac Lumelume dropping out of the playing squad an hour before kick-off. Aaron Pene and Chris Lewis were the first two players cut from the squad on Friday.

The Storm have won four of their past five preliminary finals.

Panthers: Brian To'o (ankle) is a late inclusion after being named in the 21-man squad among the reserves following his late withdrawal against the Eels. Viliame Kikau (ankle) is also cleared to play and will come off the bench with Tevita Pangai jnr joining the starting pack.

The Panthers lost prop Moses Leota to a minor calf complaint on Friday. His place in the starting side is taken by Liam Martin and Spencer Leniu comes onto the bench.

Tyrone May (knee) is set to make his return on the interchange, replacing Mitch Kenny (ankle). May injured his MCL last month but returned to training last week.

Brent Naden is the 18th man, while J'maine Hopgood was omitted from the squad on game day. Izack Tago and Leota were the two players to come out of the squad on Friday.

The Panthers have scored only two tries in two finals matches in 2021.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Storm is number 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
    Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
  • Winger for Storm is number 2 George Jennings
    Winger for Panthers is number 2 Stephen Crichton
  • Centre for Storm is number 3 Reimis Smith
    Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul Momirovski
  • Centre for Storm is number 4 Justin Olam
    Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt Burton
  • Winger for Storm is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
    Winger for Panthers is number 21 Brian To'o
  • Five-Eighth for Storm is number 6 Cameron Munster
    Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
  • Halfback for Storm is number 7 Jahrome Hughes
    Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary

Forwards

  • Prop for Storm is number 8 Jesse Bromwich
    Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
  • Hooker for Storm is number 9 Brandon Smith
    Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
  • Prop for Storm is number 10 Christian Welch
    Prop for Panthers is number 16 Tevita Pangai Junior
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
  • 2nd Row for Storm is number 12 Kenneath Bromwich
    2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
  • Lock for Storm is number 13 Dale Finucane
    Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo

Interchange

  • Interchange for Storm is number 14 Harry Grant
    Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
  • Interchange for Storm is number 15 Tui Kamikamica
    Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
  • Interchange for Storm is number 16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
    Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
  • Interchange for Storm is number 17 Nicho Hynes
    Interchange for Panthers is number 19 Spencer Leniu

Reserves

  • Reserve for Storm is number 19 Tom Eisenhuth
    Reserve for Panthers is number 5 Brent Naden

Match Officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein

Last updated:

Key match-up

If the 2021 World Cup had been played this year, these two halfbacks could well have been the Australian (Nathan Cleary) and New Zealand (Jahrome Hughes) No.7s, such has been their club season form – and the part Cleary played in NSW wrapping up Origin after game two.

They both like to take the line on, both defend well on the right edge, both have a lot of instinctive variety in their game.

The pair are also level in try assists and line-break assists, a slight advantage to Cleary in the number of forced drop-puts (19 to 13) but quite a gap in averaging kicking metres per game: Hughes on 241 but Cleary with 520.

Since field position is even more crucial in a final, could this be the advantage the Panthers have?

Stat attack

This is the Storm's 53rd NRL final and they have only lost 19. They have scored 1046 points in those 52 matches, an average of just over 20 per final. 

Their last September loss was 14-6 to the Roosters in the 2019 preliminary final.

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