You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

If not for an unheralded NRL rule change last year, Penrith's Stephen Crichton would be staring down the barrel of a grand final ban for tossing Justin Olam's boot over the sideline.

But while he will be right for kick-off on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium, Tevita Pangai jnr's remarkable road to the decider has been threatened by a knee injury.

Crichton and James Fisher-Harris were served contrary conduct charges out of Saturday's thrilling preliminary final upset of Melbourne.

The duo and halfback Nathan Cleary – who was not charged for a lifting tackle on Kenny Bromwich – will be free to play in Sunday's clash against South Sydney.

Fisher-Harris (knee), fellow prop Moses Leota (calf) and Brian To'o (ankle) are all expected to be fit for the grand final, though feared knee ligament damage for Pangai limited him to 16 minutes against the Storm and has him sweating follow-up scans on Monday.

Crichton meanwhile is facing a $2500 fine - or $3300 if he unsuccessfully contests the charge - for throwing Olam's boot over the Suncorp Stadium sideline after the Storm centre was tackled.

Get Caught Up: Must-see moments from the preliminary finals

It is Crichton's third grade-one contrary conduct charge this season alongside another grade-one dangerous contact charge.

He served a one-game ban for kicking out at Cameron Munster in round 21 and also clashed with Canberra's Joseph Tapine after dragging the Raiders forward into a Penrith try celebration in April.

Players can avoid suspension by paying monetary fines for what are deemed minor incidents under the current judiciary system, though a third strike in two years typically removes that option.

Every try from the preliminary finals

However, an understated NRL rule change at the start of 2020 has allowed players to receive an additional fine for minor incidents that happen in finals games.

Crichton's throwing of Olam's boot fits that bill.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley confirmed that was the case on Sunday, with the rule change introduced after South Sydney's Sam Burgess missed a preliminary final for pulling Roosters centre Billy Smith's hair.

"Nobody wants to see players miss big games for relatively minor offences," Annesley said when the rule change was introduced last year.

"Even if players have exhausted their monetary sanctions by round 25, all players involved in the finals series will receive an additional monetary fine they can apply for."

The Panthers will be hoping the welcome news delivered by Sunday's charge sheet is replicated by Pangai's scan results on Monday morning.

Defy impossible finals edition: Bulldogs v Eels 1998

Picked up from Brisbane two months ago on a deal worth roughly $120,000 for the rest of the season, Pangai injured his right knee in a desperate bid to deny Ryan Papenhuyzen scoring on Saturday afternoon.

Pangai played on for another minute before succumbing to the injury and now looms as Penrith's biggest concern in grand final week.

The Tongan powerhouse will join wooden spooners Canterbury next year on a lucrative deal - his shift from fellow cellar dwellers Brisbane to Penrith has been one of the more fortuitous mid-season moves in recent times.

Long-term consistency the key to finals form for South Sydney

Fisher-Harris too was in obvious discomfort throughout the Storm clash due to a knee issue he carried into the game, though he and Leota are expected to be named on Tuesday.

"He actually took that into the game. It was a bit of a funny one, he was like Lazarus, he just kept getting up. I guess there’s a few of us like that," coach Ivan Cleary said afterwards.

Leota "just fell short" of his bid to be fit for the preliminary final after aggravating an existing calf injury.

Background processes: Cleary not engaging with Bennett next week

It's hoped an extra week's recovery will have him fit for the grand final.

South Sydney's chief concerns centre around departing halfback Adam Reynolds, whose in-game kicking was limited by a mid-week groin strain that also forced him to give up goal-kicking duties.

The Rabbitohs insist a nine-day recovery will ensure their skipper takes his place, with the hope he will stretch out into full running by Thursday.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners