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It won't matter what verbal exchanges coaches Wayne Bennett and Ivan Cleary fire off this week, the lead-up to Sunday will be all about fairytales and legacies.

Will Adam Reynolds's last game in his beloved cardinal and myrtle jersey produce a second grand final ring for himself? Can Bennett in his farewell to the Rabbitohs win an eighth premiership at a third different club? 

Both men are heading to Queensland next year but in different directions so this is their swansong with South Sydney. Bennett hasn't forgotten how the Broncos showed him the "exit door" three years ago.

And now he gets the chance to win a premiership right in front of their noses at Brisbane's home ground.

Sportsbet Betting preview: Rabbitohs v Panthers

Despite all those storylines, out on the field Bennett will want another quality game of possession (48 sets against Manly in last week's preliminary final) and attention to discipline - only one penalty conceded - from his men.

Cleary will want the same sort of field-position pressure applied to the Rabbitohs that rained down on the Storm a week ago through 25 kicks for 784 metres.

The rundown

Team news

Panthers: In a late change announced an hour before kick-off Liam Martin again comes into the starting side and Viliame Kikau goes back to the bench as has been the case in all three of Penrith's finals matches.

Brent Naden is 18th man and J'maine Hopgood was the last man cut from the squad.

Mitch Kenny and Charlie Staines were omitted from the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off.

Dylan Edwards was on light duties for most of the week, using crutches and wearing a protective boot due to a plantar fascia problem, but coach Ivan Cleary reiterated on Saturday that the fullback would play. He was still in a moon boot during the team walk on Sunday.

"Dylan's fine, he'll be right," Cleary said on Saturday.

"I'm sure both teams have got players that are carrying injuries. We certainly have, but we've had that for some time.

"I just marvel at the resilience of these boys and the courage they show each week. They just refuse not to play and they keep turning up and doing their thing. I'm sure it will be the same tomorrow."

Winger Brian To'o (syndesmosis injury) and props James Fisher-Harris (knee) and Moses Leota (calf) will take their places.

"All the boys will be there. They've shown great resilience, our boys, a lot of them. I don't think anything is going to stop them again turning up and playing well on Sunday," Cleary said on Friday.

Mid-season import Tevita Pangai jnr has had MCL damage to his knee confirmed by scans and faces a month's recovery, ruling him out of Sunday's decider.

The Panthers have 13 players with grand final experience, compared with four for the Rabbitohs.

Rabbitohs: The Rabbitohs will line up 1-17 with no late changes.

Taane Milne was the last man cut and Patrick Mago is the 18th man.

Braidon Burns and Jed Cartwright dropped off the reserves list on Saturday night.

Halfback Adam Reynolds got through Saturday's session without complaint and assistant coach Jason Demetriou said the captain looked to have fully recovered from a groin injury.

"I didn't see anything at training that told me he wasn't 100%. We'll wait and see how he pulls up tomorrow but based on today's training he's ready to go," Demetriou said.

Asked if Reynolds would take back the goal-kicking duties from young fullback Blake Taaffe, Demetriou said: "I'm pretty sure he will".

Reynolds said on Friday he was confident of being able to kick without any impediment on Sunday.

"I'll be close to 100%, if not 100," Reynolds said.

Wayne Bennett named the same 17 players who disposed of Manly to advance to the club's first grand final since 2014.

Souths winger Alex Johnston requires one try to break the Rabbitohs’ season try-scoring record.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
    Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Blake Taaffe
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Stephen Crichton
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex Johnston
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul Momirovski
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Dane Gagai
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt Burton
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Campbell Graham
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Jaxson Paulo
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody Walker
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam Reynolds

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Mark Nicholls
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien Cook
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 10 Tevita Tatola
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Keaon Koloamatangi
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Cameron Murray

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Benji Marshall
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 16 Thomas Burgess
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Jai Arrow

Reserves

  • Reserve for Panthers is number 18 Brent Naden
    Reserve for Rabbitohs is number 19 Patrick Mago

Match Officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins

Last updated:

Key match-up

Adam Reynolds v Nathan Cleary: While two pint-sized fullbacks (Blake Taaffe and Dylan Edwards), two running dummy-halves (Damien Cook and Api Koroisau), and two big boppers (Tom Burgess and James Fisher-Harris) provide plenty of interest in how they can sway the result, the real fixation must be on Reynolds and Cleary.

Triggering the right kick, the height, the direction, and at what time in each set, will be like an aerial game of chess. Both of these talented No.7s will be seeking to grab metres to help preserve their big men, while perfectly positioning their wingers Brian To'o and Alex Johnston for tries.

They both have a keen sixth sense with their respective five-eighths Jarome Luai and Cody Walker, in a match that will decide who really is the best halves pairing in the NRL for 2021.

Reynolds engages the line more (174 times to 143) but Cleary puts boot to ball more often (309 kicks to 246). Walker has the most line-break assists (44) in the NRL and although Luai makes the top five, he only has 24.

Ticketing changes

  • The NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final will be played in front of a capped crowd of 39,000 at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night after Queensland Public Health Orders reduced capacity to 75%
  • The NRL & Ticketek will automatically refund tickets to the final 25% of fans who purchased seats in each Grand Final selling allocation and will be contacted as soon as possible
  • The NRL understand that these changes to the schedule will impact many but hope the community will understand that the decision is out of our hands
  • All patrons who do attend will also be required to wear a mask at all times, including when seated
  • For anyone wishing to request a refund, please submit a request here

Stat attack

With healthy winning margins at four of his five clubs so far, Bennett's percentage is highest at South Sydney with 68.5 per cent. That compares with 64.6% at St George Illawarra, 63.8% at Brisbane and 60.7% at Canberra, before a dip to 45.3% at Newcastle. 

Could this also be third time lucky for Cleary to win his first premiership, after missing out in 2011 with the Warriors and 2020 with the Panthers?