Panthers truth emerges, ugly Hugh Jackman fallout: Good, bad and ugly of NRL prelims

The Panthers and Broncos will go head-to-head in the NRL grand final, amid an unwanted development for the league around Hugh Jackman.

The Panthers, pictured here alongside Hugh Jackman in the NRL.
The Panthers are going for three straight premierships amid some unwanted fallout for the NRL around Hugh Jackman's split. Image: Getty

😃 The good: Penrith's incredible form continues

😔 The bad: Hugh Jackman blow for NRL in America

😡 The ugly: One-sided contests continue in NRL finals

Panthers' dominance leaves NRL rivals in awe

This won't please the Penrith haters out there, but NRL fans should really drink this Panthers team in before it all ends…whenever that comes. Like those who were around for the record-breaking St George teams of the 50s and 60s or Eastern Suburbs in the 70s or the great Parramatta teams of the 80s, we are witnessing a moment in rugby league history as the Panthers shoot for three premierships in a row.

Remember, this wasn't supposed to happen in the salary cap era. The cap was designed to spread the talent more widely, stopping teams dominating on an annual basis.

Penrith stare down the cap and take it on, backing their system to keep producing new players as others walk out the door chasing more money elsewhere. Craig Bellamy knows what success looks like.

He gets the Storm to the finals year after year despite his best talent leaving, picking up premierships along the way. But even he is clearly in awe of the Panthers' ability to stay on top year after year.

"The theory (about how to stop them) sounds easy but the doing it is the hard part," he said. "They're so good at knowing what works for them. Everyone knows what their job is and they are that consistent at doing their own job.

"They're quite relentless in what they do and they’re confident in what they do. Their players are not far from doing their best job each and every week."

So even if the thought of supporting Penrith against Brisbane kills you, at least grab yourself a drink, sit back on the couch and watch a master football side work its craft. We may not see their like again for a long, long time.

Hugh Jackman split could be bad news for NRL

The sad news of Hugh Jackman's marriage split from wife of 27 years Deborra-Lee Furness may have an unexpectedly negative spin off for the NRL. The Wolverine megastar, a devoted Manly fan, is up there with Chris Hemsworth and Russell Crowe as the most recognisable Aussie face in the States and was set to be front and centre of the NRL's push into America next year via the season opener in Las Vegas.

That may still happen but understandably everything is on pause as Jackman deals with the fallout from his break-up. The 54-year-old has not said a word apart from a joint statement he and his ex-wife put out confirming they were going their separate ways.

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
Discover more of our NRL Finals coverage.

Media outlets are eagerly awaiting Jackman's take on the split and will descend in massive numbers should Jackman make himself appear available to promote the NRL double header. But there's also a school of thought he will pull right back from public appearances.

As one NRL official told this column: "It's a real tricky one. Obviously everyone is understandably giving Hugh plenty of space and respecting his privacy at the moment. But at the same time, some decisions have to be made soon on his exact role in promoting this event."

Hugh Jackman and Des Hasler.
Hugh Jackman (R) with former Manly coach Des Hasler (L) in 2011. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

NRL finals littered with lop-sided games

Let's hope next Sunday night's grand final lives up to the hype because league fans have been a little short-changed during the finals series. While there were plenty of feel-good stories – big home ground support for Newcastle and the Warriors, Brisbane's electric prelim final performance, Roosters' courageous week one win – the games have largely been one-sided and predictable.

In fact, anyone who knows the game should have close to a 100 per cent tipping record. The favourites have come out on top in each of the eight games, with only three going down to the wire.

The rest of the contests have been blow-outs, with the result in the bag 20 minutes or more out from full-time. Compare that to one of the most riveting finals series in recent AFL history – played before massive crowds – and the NRL has been in their shadow.

At least we've got the two best sides slugging it out for the top prize. The methodical and relentless Panthers against the free wheelin' and roll-the-dice Broncos could be a grand final for the ages.

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