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Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o have opened up about the sledge from Jahrome Hughes that served as motivation for Penrith's preliminary final victory over Melbourne last year.
The Panthers took down the defending champions to advance to the grand final, before beating South Sydney to win the 2021 premiership.
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It has since emerged that in the lead-up to the preliminary final, Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo showed Crichton and To'o a social media video of Hughes mocking their Mt Druitt upbringings in the aftermath of Melbourne's grand final triumph over Penrith in 2020.
“There was a short video. They were doing the (hand) signals and doing the dance," Crichton told the Sydney Morning Herald this week.
“‘Ciro’ (Ciraldo) said, ‘You need to protect where you come from’.
“We play hard because not many people from Mt Druitt get into this position like us. When you see videos like that, they can’t stick up for themselves, but those of us on the field can.
"We played for the area and our families and it was good we could come away with the win.
“It was mainly Jahrome Hughes, he was on the drink, like most of the first-grade boys after you win a grand final.
"We did the exact same thing when we won a grand final. But it was a bit of motivation for us heading into that prelim.”
To’o said “there were no words to explain” Hughes' actions and the Penrith players "took it on the chin" before getting their revenge on the field.
The Panthers went on to beat the Storm 10-6 before also taking down Souths in the grand final.
The powerhouse clubs will rekindle their rivalry on Saturday night in the headline act of Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium.
Jahrome Hughes apologises for Panthers sledge
Speaking on Wednesday, Hughes apologised for his comments.
"There was no disrespect to them or anyone out in their area," he said.
"I'm quite disappointed as I'm not that kind of guy and I don't want to be looked at like that."
Hughes said he initially wasn't sure what the Penrith players were referring to when he was targeted during the preliminary final.
"They said a few things during the game to myself, but I didn't really know the full extent, obviously I can't really remember what happened," he admitted.
"They made it pretty clear they were disappointed about it and so am I.
"Now I know what it is, I apologise - I didn't mean any disrespect to them or their families or anything."
Hughes said he was also angry at himself for giving the Panthers additional motivation, which helped spur them to victory.
"I'm obviously disappointed I gave them a bit of motivation because they ended up getting the chocolates," the 27-year-old said.
The Kiwi international said the rivalry between the two competition heavyweights stemmed from the recent success of both sides, rather than any class divide.
"They've been the best team over the last couple years and we're sort of being up there as well," the Kiwi international said.
"You always look at rivalries, two of the best teams going head to head and having good battles, and we've had a couple of good ones in the last couple years.
"I guess it's shaping up to be a bit of a rivalry."
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