NRL 2020: Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm, big preview of the 2020 final

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Is there a fairytale ending for arguably the greatest player of all time, or will youthful exuberance and self-confidence bring a special group of children to the top?

Melbourne and Penrith will meet in the decision for the Telstra Premiership 2020 after being the top two teams all year round, finishing second and first, respectively.

All eyes are on Storm Captain Cameron Smith. Will he retire after an unmatched 430 games in 19 seasons?

Despite the great interest, he didn’t reveal anything, but the scenes at Suncorp Stadium after Melbourne’s preliminary final win over Canberra may have hinted at a man saying goodbye.

The Panthers are shooting for 18 straight wins, led by star halfback Nathan Cleary and his father, trainer Ivan.

Penrith gives great experience to the storm, but they have yet to be overpowered by it as courses of faith.

The last time the Panthers played in a grand final was in 2003 when they took the club’s second title, while Melbourne has now made four of the last five decisions, losing in 2016 and 2018 and winning in 2017.

The rundown

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Panther: Hooker Api Koroisau insisted his shoulder was fine after beating South Sydney on Saturday despite having to leave the field in the second half. He returned late in the game.

Second rower Viliame Kikau will come back from suspension and likely put Kurt Capewell on the bench. Prop Spencer Leniu missed the pre-final with illness, but was able to get into the selection frame.

Ivan Cleary made the surprise call to toss center Brent Naden in favor of utility Tyrone May and stated after the game that he wanted to bolster up the right fringe defense. Naden didn’t get a minute and it will be interesting to see where he’s named.

The props James Fisher-Harris and Zane Tetevano escaped charges of related crimes against the Rabbitohs.

Sturm: Came unscathed by beating Canberra as the club tweeted “Everyone is fine for the grand finale”.

Striker Brandon Smith knocked on the head but was stripped of all seriousness. The fifth and eighth Cameron Munster (knee) made it through the preliminary round without any drama, as did Dale Finucane (calf).

Key match

Cameron Smith gegen Api Koroisau. Smith’s controlling influence is still unmatched and his endless experience of big games – this will be his seventh big final – could prove to be crucial. Koroisau’s return to Penrith this year was a major contributor to their form and he was immense in the preliminary finals and caused constant chaos by jumping off the dummy half.

Stat attack

Penrith defeated Melbourne 21:14 in round six, which was the start of their winning streak. They have broken their previous club record of nine wins in a row. But the storm had the wood on the Panthers overall, losing only three games to them since 2006.

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