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Departing Panthers centre Stephen Crichton admits he will be emotional after he plays what may be his last game alongside close mate Brian To'o in Sunday's grand final.

Crichton and To'o both made their debut four years ago and are set to share their fourth grand final since but Sunday will mark the end of an era for one of the NRL’s most successful edge pairings

Partners on the field, "brothers" off it and, after attending school together in Sydney's west, the pair put together a rugby league resume most players can only dream of – sharing an edge together in two NRL grand finals, three State of Origin matches and an impressive World Cup campaign for Samoa.

But when Crichton runs out on to Accor Stadium for the final time as a Panther, the Dally M centre will be soaking up every last minute alongside his right-hand man.

"I grew up with him and he's been my best mate ever since footy started so it will be emotional and I think it will hit me at the end of the game,” he said.

Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o will play their last game together for Penrith in the 2023 grand final
Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o will play their last game together for Penrith in the 2023 grand final ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

“I’m pretty excited to end the season on a high and finish the way we want to.

“At the start of the year I did picture this week and just hoping that we would get here. Each week with the boys was just about focusing on what we needed to do to get better and be better as a team to get here.”

“It has sunk in that it will be my last game but I’m trying not to think about it too much and just worry about what I need to do for Sunday.”

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For To’o, the reality has also now set in that Sunday will be the last game before Crichton pulls on a Bulldogs jersey next season but he’s determined to send his ‘brother’ off a three-time premiership winner.

“It’s pretty sad but I’ve just been soaking up the days this week and making the most of it,” To’o told

“Coming through the system together, he’s pretty much a brother too, and knowing we’ve been there from the start together and grown together, it does make me a bit emotional. We’ve been through a lot together.

“Even though he’s always been bigger and taller than me, I’m older so I did take him under my wing a bit when we were younger.

“He’s obviously still going to be there throughout the rest of my life and although it’s going to be devastating, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

“I just want to put the work in this week and make sure we get the job done for each other.”

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.