BY CURTIS WOODWARD
When September football begins, Penrith’s 25-12 win over South Sydney in Round 23 at Suncorp Stadium will be completely forgotten.
The Panthers scratched their way back from 12-0 down to get it to 12-10 at half-time.
Souths were impressive in the first stanza.
They were playing their game.
Penrith were hanging on.
If it wasn’t for two wanky plays – they could have been down by 12 at oranges.
Ivan Cleary should give Paul Momirovski a pay rise. For it was the journeyman outside back who, not once but twice, kicked in-field as a last-play option, that set up two crazy Panthers tries.
You would think, listening to the commentary that it was the Panthers against a team running 16th.
It was all about the Panthers.
Your writer watched the game on Channel Nine. There was no talk about this being a blockbuster between two heavyweights. It was all about the Panthers and when they were going to kick over the motor.
Like Souths didn’t exist.
No Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds, Adam Cook or one of the best rosters in the premiership.
Panthers this, Penrith that.
According to others watching, it was much the same on Fox League.
Souths were ordinary in the second half and didn’t give themselves a chance.
The great Phil Gould said on Nine post-match that Souths didn’t want to get into the grind and noted Walker throwing a pass late in the game over the sideline.
Penrith did that plenty of times.
Bennett wouldn’t be happy losing or his team’s performance in the second half but would chuckle at the media frenzy spitting love all over the Panthers.
These teams, after all, play each other again in a few weeks.
It’s easy, and lazy, to ignore the Rabbitohs or the Manly Sea Eagles in this premiership race.
The Panthers are nowhere near the team they were last year.
And to a certain extent, they will ride the wave of support and media love like they did last season but they weren’t pushed as hard as the Rabbitohs could push.
Souths get more out of this loss than the Panthers get out of the win and the accolades.
The Rabbitohs aren’t going anywhere.
Penrith didn’t beat them.
Souths beat themselves.
Just like Bennett wants it, all the plaudits in the next few weeks will be about the Melbourne Storm and the Panthers.
The Rabbitohs will wake up tomorrow and will hurt.
Physically and mentally.
It would burn.
This is a Rabbitohs outfit that believes, in their heart of hearts, that they are better than Penrith.
Some may not agree with that.
But it doesn’t matter.
The Rabbitohs believe that.
COVID has thrown the NRL upside down in so many ways.
Rule changes, records breaking, the mentality of teams and their players.
It’s like watching a different sport at times.
But of the contenders to sniper the Storm, the Rabbitohs have the best pedigree.
That’s no knock on Manly or the Panthers.
There’s just something grizzled into the Rabbitohs.
If they did beat the Panthers in September and went on to face the Storm in the grand final, there’s a grit there.
The desire that they haven’t beaten the Storm or the Panthers.
That they have been smashed by both by 50 points this year.
You take your biggest pain and you use it to win.
They need to accept what’s happened to them so far in 2021.
That’s the only way they overcome it.
And they can.
As they did in New York in the 1830s – beware the dead rabbit.