Ivan Cleary's tactics questioned before NRL grand final: 'Don't like it'

NRL great Craig Gower (pictured left) during  match and (pictured right) Panthers coach Ivan Cleary during a media conference.
NRL great Craig Gower (pictured left) has questioned Ivan Cleary's (pictured right) tactics leading into the NRL grand final. (Getty Images)

Penrith great Graig Gower has called for Ivan Cleary to start No.9 Apisai Koroisau in the NRL grand final against the Parramatta Eels.

Against the Rabbitohs in the NRL preliminary final, Cleary stunned fans by starting Mitch Kenny as hooker.

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Koroisau was brought into the game when the Panthers were behind, before the crafty No.9 helped steer the Panthers into the grand final.

NRL reporter David Riccio told Triple M that a similar approach could be adopted by Cleary in the final against the Eels.

“A lot of fans are confused by this given the standard in the game of Koroisau. The Panthers notice a lot of teams are starting to spot Koroisau up and by that I mean send a lot of their big men at Koroisau to make him make those tackles early in the game," Riccio said.

“Mitch Kenny is highly-regarded as one of the best defensive dummy-halves, certainly not as creative as Koroisau, but to take the sting out of the first 20 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Ivan goes down that path again.”

While some believe Koroisau should come off the bench when the sting has been taken out of the game, Panthers great Gower is not a fan of the tactic.

“I don’t like it on the reason of last week we lacked a bit of direction out there and it also gives the defence more time to get to Nathan and more of the attacking players,” Gower added.

“Api is just so decieving out there, you don’t know what he is going to do. That just adds the element to the defensive line of, ‘We’ve got to wait and sit’ instead of going and rushing up to Nathan because there’s not enough deception at that position.

“Hopefully they go with Api. He’s a State of Origin player and adds so much to their attack and it gives Nathan and Luai so much time.”

Penrith Panthers favourites to take out NRL grand final

This year, Penrith ($1.37 favourites) have sat first in every round bar one, having seemed destined for back-to-back titles since March.

According to the TAB, no team has lost a grand final this century after being such clear favourites.

Parramatta in 2001 were the closest, starting the week at $1.45 odds before being beaten 30-24.

"We were a bit more relaxed than what Parramatta were at that time," Newcastle's 2001 coach Michael Hagan told AAP.

Hagan said he had seen several similarities with this year's Eels in the way Newcastle played - and approached the decider - in 2001.

Nathan Cleary (pictured) attends the 2022 NRL Grand Final media conference.
Nathan Cleary (pictured) will be in charge of steering the Panthers to premiership success. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"We gave ourselves a really strong chance internally, even though not many people externally gave us a hope," Hagan said.

"Maybe Parramatta feel a bit the same now.

"They have all the right components in the way they are playing, the key positions and their defence. Their timing is on the mark, that's for sure."

Parramatta's coach from 2001, Brian Smith, sees similarities between the way his Eels and the present-day Panthers play.

with AAP

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