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Match Preview: Panthers v Eels

Parramatta's win over the Storm has set up a tantalising showdown against defending premiers Panthers on Friday night to open the NRL Finals series.

The Panthers were beaten just four times all season on their way to claiming the minor premiership, and the Eels own two of those victories over Ivan Cleary's men - winning 22-20 in Round 9 and 34-10 in Round 20.

With a preliminary final berth on offer, the two western Sydney rivals will rip in from the opening whistle and the forward battle is sure to rock the foundations of BlueBet Stadium.

The Eels would love nothing better than to avenge their loss to the Panthers in last year's semi-finals, when the intervention of a trainer at a critical moment late in the game robbed the blue and golds of momentum and left a bitter taste as they succumbed 8-6 in a bruising encounter.

The Panthers went on to beat the Storm in an epic preliminary final and the Rabbitohs in a tense decider to claim the club's third premiership and they have given themselves a great shot at becoming the first back-to-back premiers since the Roosters in 2018-19.

Nathan Cleary sent off

The Rundown

Team news

Panthers: Superstar halfback Nathan Cleary will be champing at the bit after five weeks on the sideline due to suspension and he'll join forces with Jarome Luai, who was given a rest in Round 25 along with every other member of the regular starting side. 

NRL Teamlist Video: Finals Week 1

Eels: The Eels have a full squad at their disposal and arrive in the finals on the back of five wins in their past six matches. Lock Nathan Brown made his return from a finger injury in NSW Cup on Saturday in a further boost for Brad Arthur.

Team Lists


  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
    Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Taylan May
    Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Izack Tago
    Centre for Eels is number 3 Will Penisini
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen Crichton
    Centre for Eels is number 4 Tom Opacic
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Eels is number 5 Waqa Blake
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses


  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
    Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
    Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior Paulo
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Isaiah Papali'i
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Eels is number 17 Marata Niukore


  • Interchange for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Interchange for Eels is number 13 Ryan Matterson
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
    Interchange for Eels is number 14 Makahesi Makatoa
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Eels is number 15 Jake Arthur
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Jaeman Salmon
    Interchange for Eels is number 16 Oregon Kaufusi


  • Replacement for Panthers is number 18 Charlie Staines
    Replacement for Eels is number 18 Nathan Brown

Match Officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
  • Senior Review Official: Adam Gee

Last updated:

Key match-up

Nathan Cleary v Mitch Moses: He may have been restricted to 14 games by injury, suspension and Origin duty but last year's Clive Churchill Medal winner still came up with 14 try assists, 12 line break assists and 15 forced dropouts to lead Penrith to victory in 12 of those 14 matches. Moses had his own injury issues late in the season but he heads into the finals at the peak of his game and ready to lead Parramatta to the promised land after a 36-year drought. The Eels No.7 leads the NRL in try assists with 22 and his partnership with Dylan Brown is running hot. Their showdown with Cleary and Luai will be an absolute beauty.

Panthers v Eels: Finals Week 1

Stat Attack

Kickers from both sides will need to be on high alert as charge down pressure is cranked up from some of the best in the business - Eels hooker Reed Mahoney and Panthers back-rower Viliame Kikau have a competition high three charge downs for the season while Isaiah Papali'i has come up with two for Parramatta.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour 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.