The Parramatta Eels are feeling the pain after their grand final loss to Penrith on Sunday night, but few will be hurting more than Clint Gutherson.
Penrith claimed back-to-back NRL premierships thanks to their 28-12 triumph over their fierce Western Sydney rivals, becoming the first team in rugby league history to win grand finals across four grades of men's competition.
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It was a bitter outcome for the Eels, who were held scoreless in the first half in the face of a relentless Panthers onslaught.
Nobody could doubt Gutherson's commitment to the cause though, with the 28-year-old seen sporting heavy black strapping on his left hand and forearm which was reportedly the result of an injury suffered a fortnight ago.
An Eels insider told the Daily Telegraph in the aftermath of the decider that Gutherson was suspected to have broken his hand some two weeks prior to the grand final.
If true, it means he played through the injury in their impressive preliminary final win over North Queensland as well.
“Gutho will play it down, but he’s got a break there and I guess that was how much he wanted to win," the source said.
The fullback didn't give up until the bitter end on Sunday night, crossing for a try in the 76th minutes - though by then it was much too late for an Eels comeback.
Gutherson wasn't willing to put anything down to his potentially injured arm, instead preferring to look ahead to the Eels future after they stunned many within the NRL by getting to the grand final in the first place.
“You’d like to think this feeling gives you a lot of motivation. None of us have felt this, so it makes you want to get back here,” Gutherson said.
“Even a few of the Penrith boys said that was a lot of motivation for them when they lost a couple of years ago.
“We’re losing a couple of great players but whoever steps up is going to do a job for us next year.
“We’re not going to think about that now, we’re going to get in there, enjoy each other’s company and probably sit back and enjoy what we’ve achieved as a team, as a club and as people this year.
“Not many people gave us a chance to get here four, five six weeks ago and to prove them wrong (it’s) pretty good.”
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A member of the Panthers' victorious grand final side, Brian To'o said he could sympathise with the Eels.
"The Parra boys obviously worked hard this year. They deserved to be in the grand final," To'o told AAP.
"They'll come out firing next year."
For the first 10 minutes of Sunday's NRL grand final Parramatta resembled a side that might make the Penrith machine malfunction.
Parramatta had recalled Nathan Brown from the wilderness - he hadn't played at NRL level since round 17 - to add some "mongrel" to their pack and ruffle the feathers of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary.
But by the time coach Brad Arthur put the former NSW Origin lock into action in the 30th minute, the Eels were three tries down.
Parramatta's forwards had spoken of needing to win the fight with the Panthers in the middle to have any chance of beating them.
But by halftime their starting pack had made just 146 metres.
Penrith winger To'o had made 142m on his own by that point.
Eventually the Panthers ran out 28-12 winners but for a brief early period, the Eels gave hope that they could upset Penrith and deny them a second-straight premiership.
They hassled Cleary on his kicks and took the sting out of To'o's yardage carries by kicking to him.
Five-eighth Dylan Brown nearly caught them napping when he sent a chip over the top for Mitchell Moses to chase early in the tackle count and they chanced their arm by offloading and taking shortside runs.
They briefly matched the Panthers for aggression and fight in the forwards but when Stephen Crichton scored in the 12th minute, Parramatta fell apart at the seams.
"They (Penrith) played too well in the first half and too fast for us," Arthur said.
"I said to the boys right now is not the time to review or dissect, we just got beaten by a better team."
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