NRL Grand Final player ratings: Which players made the difference?

·7-min read
Ivan Cleary (pictured right) during a speech and (pictured left) Adam Reynolds looking gutted.
Yahoo Sport Australia rates the performances from the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs from the NRL grand final. (Getty Images)

Who starred? Who stank? Who got a pass mark?

Here's Yahoo Australia's exclusive player ratings from the 2021 NRL grand final:


Dylan Edwards – 7

Started the day in a moon boot and on crutches but you wouldn't have known it. Was safe under the high ball and threatened Souths' defence with each touch.

Stephen Crichton – 7.5

Will forever be remembered as a grand final hero after snatching an intercept pass from Cody Walker to score what turned out to be the match-winning try. An iconic moment in grand final history.

Paul Momirovski – 7

Will be pinching himself that he is finally part of a premiership-winning side after being a non-playing member of GF squads with the Roosters and Storm. Made a strong contribution.

Matt Burton – 7.5

Off to the Dogs next year and signed off with a typically busy performance. They say you don't know what you've got til it's gone but Penrith do. Will be sorely missed next year. Class act.

Matt Burton (pictured) scores a try during the 2021 NRL Grand Final.
Matt Burton (pictured) scores a try during the 2021 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Brian To’o – 7.5

Built like Thing from the Fantastic Four. Just rips into his work, bouncing off tackles and putting dents in opposition defences. Total nightmare to play against but a beauty to have alongside you. Capped off the night by proposing to his girlfriend. Got his second win of the night when she gave him the green light.

Jarome Luai - 7

Has been guilty of going missing at times this year but turned up for this assignment. Was back to his running, probing best. Threw a lovely cut out ball for the first try. Will still be celebrating on Thursday.

Nathan Cleary – 9

Just kicked the Rabbitohs to death, leading his team around superbly. You have to keep reminding yourself he is playing with a busted shoulder. Now has that father-son premiership he and Ivan have long dreamed about – plus the Churchill Medal around his neck.

Nathan Cleary (pictuered left) and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary (pictured right) pose with the NRL Premiership Trophy.
Nathan Cleary (pictuered left) and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary (pictured right) pose with the NRL Premiership Trophy. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Moses Leota - 7

A typical whole-hearted shift from the reliable prop. He just keeps going and going and going

Apisai Koroisau – 7.5

The only premiership winner in this Penrith side leading into the game and his experience was obvious. Energetic display out of dummy half, repeatedly asking questions of the defence. Perfect way to pay back the club back for his mid-season controversy.

James Fisher-Harris - 7

JFH was a colossus in the middle, tearing into his work and eating up the metres. He ran for 106m, only second behind Isaah Yeo for most metres totalled by a forward

Viliame Kikau – 6.5

Wasn’t at his lethal best but had his moments. He's been a big part of this premiership success.

Kurt Capewell – 6.5

Last game for the club before moving to Brisbane and worked his backside off, especially in defence. Finished with 37 tackles.

Isaah Yeo - 7

Ran for 131m, made 32 tackles and did a lot of the dirty work that goes unnoticed. Richly deserving of a premiership.

Isaah Yeo (pictured) is tackled during the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia.
Isaah Yeo (pictured) ran for 131m and made 32 tackles in the 2021 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Tyrone May – 5

Dropped a ball at 8-all with Penrith on the attack and was a relieved man at the end when it didn't prove costly. Didn't have a great deal to do.

Scott Sorensen – 6.5

Was headed for the scrapheap before Penrith handed him a lifeline and then looked likely to miss the business end of the season with injury. Can now compare premiership rings with brother-in-law Chad Townsend at this year's Christmas lunch.

Spencer Leniu – 6.5

Tevita Pangai Junior's injury gave this local junior his chance and didn't he grab it with both hands. Was a handful off the bench

Liam Martin – 6.5

What a year this bloke has had. An Origin series win and now a grand final triumph. Made 74m and 19 tackles after being injected into the game from the bench.


Blake Taaffe - 6

Only his eighth first grade and the least experienced player to run out in a decider in the NRL era. Made a couple of blues but the kid did well considering Nathan Cleary bombarded him all night. Big career ahead.

Alex Johnston – 6.5

Scored the try that gave his side a glimmer of hope five minutes from time. Was solid throughout, rarely putting a foot wrong.

 Alex Johnston (pictured) scores a try during the 2021 NRL Grand Final.
Alex Johnston (pictued) scored 30 tries in 2021, which included one in the grand final. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Dane Gagai – 6

Dropped a kick early and his night almost came to a premature end after suffering a head knock while making a tackle. Passed the HIA and returned, doing his best to lift his side in his last game in the red and green.

Campbell Graham - 5

Not his best night out. Rushed up in defence to allow Burton to score Penrith's first and had a couple of shaky moments with his hands. Did not stop trying.

Jaxson Paulo - 5

Moonwalked to a try against Manly last week and also spent a lot of this game in retreat. Turned 22 on grand final day but the beer will taste a little flat. Was tormented by Cleary's kicking game and the Panthers' swarming defence.

Cody Walker - 7

What can you say about this bloke? Set-up Souths' first try and had a hand in their second. But he will be forever remembered for throwing THAT intercept pass. It's a cruel game sometimes.

Adam Reynolds – 6.5

Last game in Souths colours and cut a distraught figure at full-time. Will be haunted by the late conversion miss from the sideline but tried his heart out – as he did in every one of his 231 games for his beloved Bunnies.

Adam Reynolds (pictured right0 is comforted by suspended team mate Latrell Mitchell (pictured left) as he looks dejected after defeat in the 2021 NRL Grand Final.
Adam Reynolds (pictured right0 is comforted by suspended team mate Latrell Mitchell (pictured left) as he looks dejected after defeat in the 2021 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Mark Nicholls – 6

The GOAT gave it his all but found the going tough against the best defence in the business.

Damien Cook – 6.5

Did his best to spark something with every touch and was a constant menace. Souths lost but he can hold his head high.

Tevita Tatola – 6.5

Kept charging into the fray, clocking up 107m. This bloke never takes a backward step.

Keaon Koloamatangi – 6

Penrith did a pretty good job on this South Sydney wrecking ball. Didn't have the impact he's had in other games but has set a pretty high benchmark.

Jaydn Su’A - 5

Made a critical handling error that could have proved fatal but still managed 76m and 29 tackles.

Cameron Murray - 7

This bloke doesn't know the meaning of the word STOP. Made 51 tackles and was a constant presence with the ball. Never phones it in.

Benji Marshall – 5

Didn’t see much game time but was trying his best at the death to pull the game out of the fire. Have we seen the last of the great man?

Jacob Host – 5

A handy knock off the bench. Didn't shirk his duty.

Thomas Burgess – 6.5

The last of the Burgess brothers left at the club and did the name proud, punching out 116m and taking the tough carries.

Jai Arrow – 4

A failed HIA ruled him out for most of the game. A forgettable night on all counts.

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