Excitement is at fever pitch at foot of the Blue Mountains, as the Penrith Panthers prepare for their fourth grand final in as many years. You can barely walk 100 metres anywhere around Penrith and surrounding suburbs without seeing flags, streamers, balloons, banners, or even cutouts of players heads adorning houses, businesses, or cars.
There are few communities that get around their sporting team like Penrith does for the Panthers, and the players know how lucky they are to have such passionate fans.
Liam Martin is grateful for the support, but admits it took a while for him to get used to it.
“It’s always been incredible, especially the last few years, just how much support we have in the community,” Martin said.
“This week you drive around seeing all the streamers and my head everywhere. It took a bit to get used to, getting recognised and talking to people. I’m actually pretty shy, away from the field, so it’s certainly something I had to get used to.
“But I just love how much the community gets behind us.”
Grand Final teams presented at Fan Fest
Martin’s second row partner Scott Sorensen shared a similar sentiment when it comes to the fans, mentioning how many people turned up for the club’s open training session at BlueBet Stadium on Tuesday, as well as their preliminary final.
“It’s awesome, it’s honestly unbelievable,” Sorensen said of the turnout.
“I don’t just want to mention that, I want to mention the fans that were there on Friday night. It was such an amazing turnout. Our fans that come week in, week out here at Penrith and our away games.
“We’re so lucky to have the fans and the support that we have.”
While the fans and community are celebrating another grand final appearance, the reaction from the players following last Friday’s win was a little bit more subdued. Sorensen admitted that while the players were excited to be to qualify for the grand final, they know there’s still a job to be done.
“At the end of the day, you sort of have to celebrate that we are into a grand final,” he said.
“It’s bloody hard to get into a grand final. You need to embrace that and enjoy that moment of being into another grand final.
“But at the end of the day, you don’t just want to be there for the sake of it. You want to win it.”
Martin also acknowledged the difficulties in reaching grand finals, but still knows to enjoy the occasion.
Grand Final Press Conference: Panthers v Broncos
After debuting in 2019, Martin nailed down his spot in the side in 2020, leaving him in the unique position of entering his fourth grand final in four full seasons of first grade.
Martin revealed that he had been advised early on how rare it is to play in one grand final, admitting that playing in four was “incredible.”
One of Martin’s teammates in the first two grand finals was Kurt Capewell, who he will line up directly opposite of on Sunday night. While he credited Capewell as a big part of the Broncos rise from wooden spooners to grand finalists in just three years, he also stated there were similarities between the Broncos and the Panthers of a few years ago.
“I think it was 2020 when they finished wooden spooners,” he said.
“That was a bit like us in 2019, missing out on finals. They’ve just had a meteoric rise. They’ve been playing incredible football and you can see how much Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell have built that culture.”
As for facing Capewell, Martin said he was keen to do so.
“We always have good match ups whenever we play against one another.
“So yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.”