Can Herbie Farnworth end the curse of the English centres in the grand final next Sunday night?
Farnworth will be the fourth Englishman in the modern era to play in the centres in the biggest game of the year – and will be hoping to end a hoodoo.
Ellery Hanley started the run of outs in 1988 with Balmain when he was knocked senseless by Bulldog Terry Lamb off the ball in an infamous incident.
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He took no further part in the game and the Bulldogs – coached by Gus Gould in his rookie season – went on to score an easy win.
The following year, Andy Currier, also with the Tigers, played in the game labelled the best grand final of all time against Canberra.
Sadly for Currier, it was not a happy game.
He missed a crucial tackle on Gary Belcher that saw the Raiders fullback score his team’s opening try.
Then with the Raiders ahead by a point late in extra time, Currier tried a little grubber kick that was swooped on by Mal Meninga.
Big Mal passed the ball to replacement forward Steve Jackson, who bumped off a series of defenders before scoring one of the great grand final tries as the Raiders took the trophy out of Sydney for the first time.
Fast forward to 2015 and Jack Reed played in the centres for the Broncos against the Cowboys.
Reed didn’t suffer as painful a fate as his compatriots – but was on the wrong end of a dramatic Cowboys comeback that culminated with Johnathan Thurston kicking a field goal in golden point to break the Broncos’ hearts.
The good news for Herbie as he attempts to stop the rot is that he comes into the big game in outstanding form.
After Reece Walsh, he was the most dangerous back on the field in the win over the Warriors, bagging two tries and running for over 200 metres.
But the question is – can he reproduce that form against the brilliant Panthers backline and finally end the hoodoo?
Panthers quartert that must step up
Rugby league is a 17-man game these days – and that’s something Ivan Cleary will be reminding the Panthers bench in the lead-up to Sunday’s grand final.
For as magnificent as the Panthers’ starting 13 were in the demolition of the Storm last Friday night, the four players from the bench were somewhat underwhelming.
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Of Jack Cogger, Lindsay Smith, Luke Garner and Spencer Leniu, only the latter provided the Panthers with any real spark when he took the field. A tower of strength all season, Leniu made 10 bruising runs for 105 metres.
Smith was down on his usual high impact game, producing 73 metres from 11 runs and Garner had just four runs for 43 metres.
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Cogger was barely noticed, but he played only the final 22 minutes after replacing Jarome Luai and the game was already done and dusted by that stage.
To beat the in-form Broncos, the Panthers are going to need far greater contributions from the four men on the bench.
Their role will be to lift the team with their enthusiasm and drive – and the Panthers will be well on the way to the cherished three-peat if they manage to do that.