Channel 9's decision to replace Phil Gould with Billy Slater for the traditional 'final word' before the NRL grand final on Sunday night proved to be a flop, with fans expressing their disappointment on social media.
Gould has given his iconic 'final word' before numerous grand finals and State of Origin games over the years, getting fans in the mood with his pre-match monologue.
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However the task was handed to Melbourne legend and current Queensland coach Slater on Sunday night, with Gould playing a reduced role in Channel 9's grand final coverage due to his close ties with the Panthers.
The Bulldogs head of football - who used to hold the same role at Penrith - was in commentary for the reserve grade State Cup final on Sunday afternoon, but his duties were very minimal for the NRL decider.
Gould was part of the pre-match build-up and post-match show, but many fans were surprised to see Slater giving the traditional 'final word' instead of Gould.
"Eleven months ago, 16 teams embarked on a journey. A journey to get to this moment," Slater said on-field.
"What teams survived? The Panthers and the Eels are the only two.
"Grand finals are won on moments...Who is it going to be and what team is it going to be from?
"One team are 80 minutes away from realising their dream and remembering it for the rest of their lives."
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) October 2, 2022
The move didn't exactly go down well with fans, with many taking to social media to pan Slater's efforts in comparison to Gould.
"Billy Slater doing a Gus Gould intro, and it's somehow worse," one fan wrote.
Another tweeted: "Billy Slater doing the Phil Gould pre-match lecture with all the gravitas of a helium balloon."
— Bert Handsome (@_BertHandsome) October 2, 2022
It’s the lowest bar possible and he’s still managed to not clear it.
— Bert Handsome (@_BertHandsome) October 2, 2022
A Billy Slater preamble doesn’t match a Phil Gould preamble
— @JJE (@Jeff__E) October 2, 2022
Bring back Phil Gould for the last word Cam Smith now Billy Slater rubbish !!
— Jamie Dally 🇳🇿 (@DallyJamie) October 2, 2022
Billy Slater is not Phil Gould
— MartyMariner (@MartyMariner) October 2, 2022
Is Billy Slater trying his best Brett Kirk to get on requestival next year?
— tacos (@thiscassgirl) October 2, 2022
NRL pre-game where they try to turn people like Billy Slater into coherent humans is always a fail.
— Steve Boylan (@StevieBoylan) October 2, 2022
— Bung (@bunghole42) October 2, 2022
— zapcap73 (@zapcap73) October 2, 2022
Phil Gould rapt after Panthers win back-to-back premierships
Speaking on Channel 9's post-game show, Gould expressed his pride at how far the Panthers have come over the last decade.
Gould was general manager of football at the Panthers for eight years, proving instrumental in the success they are now enjoying despite his famous 'five-year plan' coming to fruition a little later then he predicted.
“I particularly feel happy for the Panthers fans tonight - the last two years were Covid-affected and they didn’t get to see the grand final live last year,” he said.
“To be here and experience a night like this, for the club to be so resoundingly brilliant on the game day and beat their local neighbours so convincingly on the scoreboard.
“You see the scenes here, these are the things that grab me. All these blokes came to us as teenagers, most of them. Now they have got wives, families, kids, houses, cars – they have grown up as a group of players together.
“One telling factor that I saw leading into this game is that 13 of this 17 not only came through the Panthers Academy, but have played 100 per cent of their NRL football with the one club.
“That is an extraordinary statistic, and to think that this club has produced not only more NRL players over the last 10 years, but more representative-class players (than any other club).”
The Panthers also won the SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup competitions this year - the first club to achieve that feat in 115 years of rugby league in Australia.
“This year, to win all four of the senior representative competitions, plus the NRL, shows that it is just the beginning,” Gould said.
“This isn’t the end of it, this is the start of it. It really is a strong club, it is set up better than any other and they deserve everything they get.
“The key to it is having good people – the Academy is not the bricks and mortar, the Academy is the people that work within it. The Academy is an inspiration for all kids in western Sydney and western NSW.
“Every demographic of our western Sydney culture is represented in this team – all the way from Dubbo down into the heart of the Penrith and Blacktown area.”
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