Paul Gallen reveals how family and friends can be a player’s worst enemy during grand final week as he lifts the lid on what stars REALLY go through before year’s biggest game
- Penrith face Parramatta in NRL Grand Final at Accor Stadium on Sunday
- Panthers are one win away from winning back-to-back premierships
- Eels can end a 36-year wait for a premiership by beating Penrith
- Parramatta has already beaten the reigning premiers twice this season
Paul Gallen has warned Penrith and Parramatta players that friends and families could be their own worst enemy in the lead-up to Sunday’s NRL Grand Final.
The two Western Sydney rivals will collide at Accor Stadium in a what promises to be a fascinating showdown, with history at stakes for both clubs.
The Panthers are one win away from becoming only the second team in the NRL era to win back-to-back Grand Finals after the Sydney Roosters triumphed in 2018 and 2019.
Eels co-captain Junior Paulo (left|) and Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary pose with the NRL Premiership Trophy during the 2022 NRL Grand Final Week Launch
The Eels, meanwhile, are 80 minutes away from ending a 36-year wait for a premiership, the longest drought in the competition.
Aside with the pressure that comes with the territory of playing in the NRL decider, Gallen believes players from both teams could have their nerves tested by friends and family.
‘The biggest thing that you don’t expect is some of the extra pressures that come from the people closest to you,’ he wrote in his Nine column on Monday.
‘They’re not trying to make life hard, but sometimes they get caught up in the excitement and can create extra stress that you don’t need.’
Penrith are one win away from clinching back-to-back premierships
Parramatta are one win away from ending a 36-year wait for a premiership
The pressure could be particularly felt by the Eels, given Parramatta fans have been waiting almost four decades for a premiership.
Gallen knows all too well the feeling of playing in a historic Grand Final, having captained their Sharks to their maiden premiership back in 2016.
‘Everyone associated with the players and the club will want to be part of it,’ he said.
‘Every family member and friend and their dog wants a ticket to the game and players get hassled. […] You want to help everyone out.
Paul Gallen believes the Eels must try and block out the pressure coming with the chance of ending the longest premiership drought in the NRL
And warned the fact everyone connected with the club will want to be part of the Grand Final will only add pressure on the players’ shoulders
‘You want everyone to be there. You don’t want to be letting anyone down.’
The former New South Wales star also warned the Eels must block out any thoughts of ending their 36-year wait for a premiership.
Parramatta reached the Grand Finals in 2001 and 2009, only to lose to Newcastle and Melbourne respectively – the Storm were subsequently stripped of the title – and are back in the decider for the first time in 13 years after beating the Cowboys 24-20 on Friday night.
Penrith beat Parramatta 27-8 in the qualifying final two weeks ago (above) but lost twice to the Eels during the regular season
‘They can’t focus on that [the 36-year drought] and they don’t focus on it,’ Gallen said.
‘All they can do is worry about their job and what they can do to prepare as best they can.’
The Panthers lost only four games this season, but two of those defeats came against the Eels. The reigning premiers, however, ran out comfortable 27-8 winners over Parramatta in the qualifying final two weeks ago.