NRL finalists Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers dominated the State of Origin squads as the selections were confirmed on Sunday.

Ryan Papenhuyzen capped a wonderful season with a man of the match display in Sunday's final, as the Storm saw off Penrith 26-20.

The full-back is one of seven Melbourne players who will feature in the Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, with the final additions having been revealed.

Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr will deputise in the NSW camp, while their Storm team-mates Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster will link up with Queensland's squad.

Six Penrith players will also take part, with Kurt Capewell named in the Maroons squad and Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo selected for New South Wales.

Papenhuyzen may not get in ahead of James Tedesco – who was the player of the series in 2019 – for the Blues, though Storm coach Craig Bellamy is sure the youngster can have a big impact on the squad.

"[Papenhuyzen] has really matured this year, I'm sure he'd be the first one to say he's had a lot of help off Billy [Slater] and he's been very grateful for that," Bellamy said. 

"He can play a few other places and he's tough as nails and he'll give you some X-factor for a couple of other positions as well so I'm sure Freddie will be looking at him pretty hard to play on the bench."

The three-match State of Origin series will take place throughout November. The Blues are the defending champions.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy has hailed his side's NRL Grand Final win over Penrith Panthers as the most meaningful of his career. 

Melbourne ultimately triumphed 26-20 at ANZ Stadium after earlier racing into a 26-0 lead to secure the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Bellamy's squad had been forced to base themselves at a Sunshine Coast resort from late June onwards after coronavirus cases spiked in Victoria, with some families uprooting and joining them. 

The side wore a 'V' on their jerseys in tribute to their home state and an emotional Bellamy was quick to praise his players' response to such challenging circumstances. 

"It's been difficult, it's been challenging, it's been different," Bellamy said.

"Even today, well, for me, it didn't really feel like a Grand Final because usually we come down three or four days before. We have fan days at home during the week and we didn't really have that the whole week.

"For what our guys have been through, what their families have been through, I probably would put it up at the top of the Grand Final wins that we've had.

"This year, there's been some circumstances and situations where I thought some of the guys might have wanted to pack up and go home.

"Especially the ones there that haven't had their families in the bubble. But they haven't, they all stuck there through some difficult circumstances at times. And the other big thing has been the support of the families.

"Hardly have they complained about anything and living in that bubble, away from home, has been difficult. That's what it was all about for us - the group with their families and playing for the people in Victoria.

"We got some real strength out of that."

 

Cameron Smith was relieved to cling on for victory in the NRL Grand Final, admitting Melbourne Storm "did it the hard way" after surviving a late rally from the Penrith Panthers.

Melbourne appeared on course for a comfortable triumph at ANZ Stadium when they led 26-0 early in the second half, but ending up hanging on for a 26-20 win.

Penrith scored four tries to come charging back into a contest that saw their opponents finish with 11 men, Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith both sent to the sin-bin in a dramatic conclusion.

However, Melbourne survived a desperation final play from the Panthers to prevail, securing the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Smith was full of praise for Penrith, not just for their late rally but also a 2020 season that saw them win 17 games in a row heading into Sunday's clash, while also spoke of his pride for a Storm squad forced to leave Victoria due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We did it the hard way, 11 men in the end," Melbourne's captain, who scored one of his team's four tries, said in a post-game interview during which he refused to be drawn on whether he plans to prolong his career.

"Penrith were coming home with a wet sail and playing the footy that they've played all year, which has been terrific.

"As an opposition club and organisation, we've admired what Penrith have done. To win 17 in a row in this competition is a special effort, on top of what everyone has been through this year.

"If there was another couple of minutes on the clock, who knows what would have happened there. You've got to give credit to Penrith, they fought to the end.

"But I'm just proud of this football team, not just the ones that played tonight but the entire squad. We haven't been home for about five months and with the conditions that we've been under, it's a remarkable effort to be here tonight and get a victory."

A COVID-19 outbreak denied Melbourne home comforts, but Smith revealed overcoming adversity had created a bond within the group that will forever remain strong.

Justin Olam, Suliasi Vunivalu and Ryan Papenhuyzen also touched down for Craig Bellamy's side in the final, while their talismanic skipper booted 10 points.

"We've had some close-knit teams during my time with the club, but given the situation we've been here, pretty much living in each others' pockets for five months, it's something very different, something we've never experienced," Smith added.

"We grew as a unit this year and there are connections in this team now that we will have for the rest of our lives."

Cameron Smith played a starring role before Melbourne Storm survived a second-half fightback to beat Penrith Panthers 26-20 in a pulsating NRL Grand Final. 

Hooker Smith - potentially playing his final game - scored a try and also kicked 10 points to help Melbourne overcome the team who finished above them in the table.

Penrith had triumphed when the teams met in the regular season on their way to being crowned minor premiers, yet a first title since 2003 proved out of their reach as they were made to pay for costly errors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

Melbourne capitalised in clinical fashion, opening up a commanding 22-0 lead at the break that, despite the Panthers trying to claw their way back in the closing stages, set up the victory.

Justin Olam was awarded a penalty try after the ball was kicked out of his grasp in the process of trying to ground it over the line, while the Panthers' poor discipline allowed Smith to kick his team into a double-digit advantage. 

After Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted a looping Nathan Cleary pass and raced clear to score a second try, Smith collected a loose ball and darted over from close range just prior to the interval. 

When man of the match Ryan Papenhuyzen broke free from inside Melbourne's own half to cross early in the second half, the game appeared to over as a contest.

However, having seen two tries chalked off in the first half, Penrith finally opened their account when Brian To'o finished in the corner, the score awarded despite suggestions of obstruction in the build-up. 

Stephen Crichton added another try and when Josh Mansour raced through on the Panthers' left less than four minutes later, a miraculous comeback suddenly seemed a serious possibility. 

Yet the deficit was too much with the clock against them and Melbourne held on, even with Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith finishing the game in the sin-bin.

Cleary barged through as the Storm's 11 men were breached again in the final minute, though it was a mere consolation effort as Craig Bellamy's side sealed a fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Melbourne Storm's era of dominance has so far yielded two premierships, and they get another chance against Penrith Panthers on Sunday.

Led incredibly by head coach Craig Bellamy and captain Cameron Smith, Melbourne are in their fourth Grand Final in five years.

And their efforts so far in 2020 have been made even more special by the fact they left Victoria on June 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have been away from home ever since.

The Storm are three-time NRL premiers, having had titles in 2007 and 2009 stripped following salary cap breaches.

But they have bounced back from that scandal and, with the help of Opta, we take a look at their dominance.

An astounding win rate

Melbourne were handed their salary cap punishment in 2010, and in that season were deducted points and barred from earning any for the campaign.

But since 2011, the Storm have incredibly won 186 of 260 NRL games, at a win rate of 71.5 per cent. The next best? Sydney Roosters – at 59.6 per cent.

That is 10 years of dominance, although it has included just two premierships – in 2012 and 2017. Melbourne have finished as minor premiers in four of those seasons.

In that period, the Storm have a for/against differential of plus-2,288. That is close to double of the Roosters (plus-1,290).

Finals dip

For all their dominance in the home-and-away seasons, Melbourne's win rate in finals since 2011 is 62.5 – which ranks below the Roosters (63.2). Bellamy's men have played in the most (24) in that period, but have been unable to capitalise regularly in the postseason. Interestingly, the Storm average fewer points against in the finals since 2011 (14.1 to 14.5), but their points for drop from 23.3 to 19.4.

Since 2011, six different teams have won an NRL premiership, with the Roosters claiming three crowns.

Only Wayne Bennett (34) has more finals wins as coach than Bellamy (26), as the latter aims for a third premiership.

The Storm face a huge test against the Panthers at ANZ Stadium, but another premiership would further emphasise a decade of dominance.

2020 NRL Grand Final Opta facts

- Penrith have won two of their past three NRL games against the Storm (L1) and will be on the hunt for back-to-back wins against them for the first time since 2005. This will be their first ever meeting in the finals.

- The Panthers have won each of their past two NRL Grand Finals (1991, 2003), after defeat in their maiden Grand Final berth in 1990. The Storm have won only one of their past three Grand Finals despite winning the second half in all three.

- Penrith have won their past five NRL games at ANZ Stadium by an average margin of 14 points per game, as many as they had won in their 21 games at the venue prior (W5, L16).

- No team has appeared in (nine) or won (five) more Grand Finals in the NRL era (1998-) than the Storm, while only Gold Coast Titans (0) had competed in fewer than the Panthers (one) prior to this campaign.

- Melbourne have made 12 successful intercepts in the 2020 NRL campaign, the second-most of any team in the competition behind South Sydney Rabbitohs (16).

- The Penrith Panthers have scored 24 tries on the back of a penalty this NRL campaign – the second-most of any team in the competition – while only the Broncos (122) have conceded more penalties than the Storm (119) this season.

Penrith Panthers ended a 17-year wait to return to the NRL Grand Final, beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-16 in a thriller at ANZ Stadium.

Ivan Cleary's side set up a clash next weekend with the Melbourne Storm, thanks to tries from Brian To'o, Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards.

Penrith's lone appearance in the Grand Final saw them beat the Sydney Roosters in 2003, and now they can target a second premiership.

It will be a battle between the two sides that were the strongest across the campaign, with Penrith having lost just one of 20 regular-season games.

In Saturday's preliminary final, Alex Johnston gave the Rabbitohs a dream start with a fourth-minute opening try, dotting down after captain Adam Reynolds put a perfect kick into the left corner.

Moments later, however, Johnston was at fault when he dropped a high kick and allowed To'o to barge through.

The Panthers were 12-6 ahead by the half-hour mark after May clutched a clever kick over the defence from Nathan Cleary, and a Cleary penalty just before the interval stretched their lead to eight points.

Dane Gagai snatched a try back for the Rabbitohs 10 minutes into the second half, making it a tight game again at 14-12.

Yet Isaah Yeo made a burst through the Rabbitohs defensive ranks and fed a short pass to his left, allowing Edwards to dart in under the posts in the 66th minute and stretch their advantage decisively.

Corey Allan pulled back four points for South Sydney, but Reynolds missed the extras and they failed to trouble the scoreboard again.

Nathan Cleary was the hero with a brilliant hat-trick as minor premiership winners Penrith Panthers beat Sydney Roosters 29-28 to progress in the NRL finals.

A thrilling Qualifying final encounter on Friday saw Penrith reach the Preliminary finals after storming back from going 10 points behind in the early stages.

Cleary scored three tries as well as kicking four conversions and a drop goal, with Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton also dotting down for the Panthers.

The Roosters, who will now have to face either Canberra Raiders or Cronulla Sharks in the semi-finals, made a fast start and came close to recovering in the latter stages but ultimately fell to a narrow defeat.

Early tries from Josh Morris and Freddy Lussick handed the defending champions the advantage but by the time the match reached the 50-minute mark, the Panthers had scored 28 unanswered points.

James Tedesco and Josh Morris crossed in reply for the Roosters, but Cleary's field goal ensured Penrith prevailed despite Angus Crichton's converted try setting up a tense finish.

Luke Keary tried to level matters with a desperate field goal attempt that fell short from 45 metres, allowing Cleary, the impressive Jarome Luai and the Panthers to celebrate as their fine 2020 season continued.

Parramatta Eels fought back to beat Wests Tigers and seal a top-four finish as Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders claimed contrasting victories in Saturday's NRL action. 

Will Smith and Reed Mahoney scored tries in the last 15 minutes at Bankwest Stadium as the Eels rallied for a thrilling 28-24 triumph, lifting them into third place in the ladder to book a qualifying final against Melbourne Storm.

The defeat meant a disappointing end for Tigers duo Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence in their farewell appearances for the club, with the former's outing painfully cut short by injuries suffered in the first half. 

The Raiders had briefly moved into the top four in the ladder thanks to a 38-28 win over the Cronulla Sharks, aided by 14 points from captain Sam Williams. 

However, there was a setback for much-changed Canberra as prop Ryan Sutton suffered a knee injury that is set to rule him out of the play-offs. 

Meanwhile, minor premiers Penrith made it 15 straight victories as they thrashed Canterbury Bulldogs 42-0 at ANZ Stadium, Kurt Capewell and Brent Naden both crossing twice in the rout. 

Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson was placed on report for a possible eye gouge on James Tamou, though the Panthers captain revealed the pair had discussed the incident after the game. 

"He [Thompson] said after he was just trying to get something to try and get me down, which was fair enough," Tamou said. "In the scheme of things, you're trying your best just to do your job and try and win the tackle. 

"He said there was nothing in it. I've been keeping my eye on Luke and I don't think he's done anything like that throughout the year. From my point of view, I don't think there was much in it." 

Penrith Panthers secured their first NRL minor premiership in 17 years thanks to a dominant first-half showing in a 32-12 win over North Queensland Cowboys.

Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai all crossed as the Panthers racked up 20 unanswered points during the opening 40 minutes en route to the J.J. Giltinan Shield.

Viliame Kikau continued to pile the misery on to his former employers as he leapt to claim Nathan Cleary's kick and score four minutes into the second half.

Brent Nadan touched down in between converted consolation tries for Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Kyle Feldt, with Penrith able to rest James Tamou, Api Koroisau and Zane Tetevano, casting an eye towards post-season.

Following Canterbury Bulldogs' surprise win over South Sydney Rabbitohs on Thursday, Brisbane Broncos are now the team in bottom spot after a lacklustre 26-12 defeat to the Parramatta Eels, for whom captain Clint Gutherson scored twice.

The Broncos must win the Queensland derby to have any hope of avoiding a first wooden spoon in their history, with Gold Coast Titans-bound David Fifita a major doubt for that match having been helped from the field with an ankle sprain.

Liam Martin scored a memorable leaping effort as Penrith Panthers made a statement of intent by defeating potential Finals rivals Parramatta Eels 20-2 to rack up a 13th straight NRL win.

Table-topping Penrith led 6-2 at the end of a low-scoring first half at Panthers Stadium on Friday, with Josh Mansour diving over from Jarome Luai's pass at the siren.

But the Eels eventually caved under a barrage of attacks, having held up several efforts in the first half, with Martin athletically snaring the ball out of the air to touch down in the 56th minute.

Luai went over in the final stages as well to add gloss to the scoreline and provide the third-place Eels a reminder of the task they could potentially face come Finals time in October.

In Friday's other contest, Manly Sea Eagles triumphed 32-20 at rock-bottom Canterbury Bulldogs with Taniela Paseka, Curtis Sironen, Brad Parker, Jack Gosiewski, Morgan Harper and Martin Taupau all scoring in the six-try effort.

The win was soured slightly by late injuries to Cade Cust (ankle) and Addin Fonua-Blake (knee). The former is expected to miss the final two rounds, while the latter is doubtful to play against Gold Coast Titans next week.

Penrith Panthers made it 11 wins in a row at the top of the NRL standings as they eased to a commanding 30-6 defeat of Wests Tigers on Saturday.

David Nofoaluma's try gave the Tigers an early lead, but Jarome Luai and Liam Martin crossed and Nathan Cleary kicked a penalty to give the hosts a 14-6 half-time advantage.

The Tigers lost Adam Doueihi to a sin bin just before the break and any lingering momentum was lost once Brian To'o marked his return from injury with a try 52 minutes in.

Further scores from Stephen Crichton and Josh Mansour sealed a win that keeps the Panthers firmly at the top, with the Tigers now down in 11th.

New Zealand Warriors are up to ninth after a similarly authoritative 36-6 win over the Newcastle Knights at Scully Park.

An even first 50 minutes, in which Adam Pompey and Gehamat Shibasaki scored first-half tries, swung the Warriors' way after Roger Tuivasa-Sheck went over for his third try in as many matches.

The home side crossed the whitewash a further four times in 17 minutes, Pompey and Tuivasa-Sheck each getting their second and George Jennings and Jazz Tevaga also touching down as David Klemmer's 150th NRL match ended with a sin bin.

Cronulla Sharks made light of injury troubles with a 28-12 defeat of North Queensland Cowboys.

Braydon Trindall, playing in only his third NRL match, kicked four out of five conversions as the Sharks ran in tries through Briton Nikora, Sione Katoa, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Siosifa Talakai and Connor Tracey.

Kyle Feldt opened and concluded the scoring for the Cowboys, who are 14th.

Head coach Ivan Cleary hailed a "really cool" performance from Liam Martin that drove the Panthers to a 38-12 win over the Sharks, a 10th successive victory for the team. 

The back-rower was outstanding and grabbed the fifth of seven tries for the leaders, with Josh Mansour crossing for a double on his 150th NRL appearance. 

Martin signed a new two-year contract this week and showed his worth to Cleary with an all-action display. 

"That's really cool," Cleary told a post-game news conference. "For that performance it just shows the character of him and he had a huge impact in our performance tonight." 

Viliame Kikau set the Panthers on the way to a comfortable win with a third-minute opening try, with Mansour and Brent Naden dotting down before the 20-minute mark. 

Stephen Crichton went over before the break, with Martin, Jarome Luai and Mansour adding second-half scores. Jesse Ramien and Connor Tracey grabbed the Sharks' consolation tries. 

Cleary said of the team's performance: "It was very good, but there's still things that we need to fix. 

"I don't mean to be arrogant or disrespectful to the Sharks or anything. We're confident we're doing a lot of things right, but there's little lessons again tonight, little things again in our game from week to week, that whether individual or from a team we can still improve on and the boys know that." 

Dean Young made a winning start to his coaching career as St George Illawarra Dragons landed a 28-24 win over Brisbane Broncos. 

Two tries from Mikaele Ravalawa and one each for Josh Kerr and Corey Norman, who both crossed in the opening five minutes, were supplemented by 12 points from the boot of Zac Lomax. 

Young, a former star forward for the Dragons, took over following the departure of Paul McGregor, seizing the chance to guide the team through the rest of their season. 

The Broncos trailed by just two points when Kotoni Staggs added the extras to Tom Dearden's 69th-minute try, but the Dragons held out, with Lomax's third penalty at the death putting the seal on their success.

Penrith Panthers set a new club record with a ninth successive NRL win, though their 18-12 triumph over New Zealand Warriors was overshadowed by alleged racial abuse of Brent Naden. 

Panthers winger Naden, who is an indigenous Australian, reported comments made from a section of the crowd that led to a small group of supporters being escorted from Central Coast Stadium. 

The NRL are investigating the incident; acting CEO Andrew Abdo said in a statement that "decisive action" will be taken against anyone found guilty, while the governing body will offer support to those players involved. 

Naden scored the opening try as Penrith maintained their impressive streak, Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Edwards also touching down as the leaders opened up a 16-6 advantage by half-time. 

Patrick Herbert converted his own try as the Warriors fought hard in the second half, though the table-topping Panthers held on to make it nine in a row. 

In Friday's other game, outgoing coach Paul McGregor enjoyed a successful farewell as St George Illawarra Dragons prevailed 14-12 against Parramatta Eels. 

The Dragons announced this week that McGregor would be stepping down after the game at Bankwest Stadium, despite having over a year left to run on his contract. Dean Young is to take over on an interim basis.  

His final outing in charge saw a victory secured thanks to a brace of tries from Mikaele Ravalawa, as well as six points from the boot of Zac Lomax.  

Clinton Gutherson and Kane Evans touched down for the Eels, who missed the chance to go level on points with the second-placed Melbourne Storm in the ladder.

Penrith Panthers winger Brent Naden was allegedly the subject of racial abuse from members of the crowd during his side's 18-12 victory over New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium.  

An Indigenous Australian, Naden reported comments made by a small section of fans to a member of Penrith's training staff, who then passed on the information to police.  

Footage broadcast by Fox Sports showed a group being spoken to by officials before they were escorted from the venue.  

The NRL is investigating the incident, with acting CEO Andrew Abdo declaring the governing body will take "decisive action" against anyone found guilty, as well as offering support to those players involved.  

"Racism and vilification will not be tolerated in our game," he said.  

"Bringing communities and cultures together is part of rugby league. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and taking a leadership role in driving social change.   

"Any fan found to have racially abused a player or another fan will not be welcome at our games.   

"We have shown in the past that we will take the strongest possible action to ensure fans guilty of racial abuse are banned from attending the Telstra Premiership.  

"We will work closely with NSW Police, stadium authorities and the clubs to determine the facts and take decisive action against anyone guilty of racial abuse." 

Naden scored the opening try as table-topping Penrith set a new club record by securing a ninth successive victory. 

"He's okay, it's not the first time he's heard that in his life - but I think in this forum it has been," Penrith coach Ivan Cleary told the media after the game.

"He certainly took offence to it at the time but he's okay now.

"It's one of those situations that you can only react how you feel at the time. Whatever was said, it definitely affected him."

Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Edwards also crossed in the first half for the in-form Panthers, while Nathan Cleary kicked six points to help see off the Warriors.

The Penrith Panthers matched a club record with an eighth straight win as they showed why they belong at the top of the NRL table.

A 28-12 win over the Canberra Raiders on Saturday came thanks to tries from Viliame Kikau, Liam Martin, the prolific Stephen Crichton and Brent Naden that all arrived before half-time.

Canberra trailed 24-0 at the break but cut their deficit after the break thanks to a double from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; however, Nathan Cleary's kicking for the Panthers kept them at arm's length.

The Panthers first won eight in a row in the 2003 season, when they went on to win the Grand Final.

The Melbourne Storm had briefly nudged ahead of the Panthers with a 41-10 success against the Canterbury Bulldogs earlier in the day, with Josh Addo-Carr and Kenneath Bromwich both dotting down twice.

Nicho Hynes, Justin Olam and Suliasi Vunivalu also poached tries, with the Storm having posted 22 points in their onslaught before the Bulldogs, who sit at the foot of the ladder, troubled the scoreboard.

The only setback for the Storm was a knee injury sustained by Cameron Munster that could see him miss several weeks of action.

The Storm were not the day's biggest winners, with that honour going to the Newcastle Knights who thumped Wests Tigers 44-4 to climb to sixth place.

Kalyn Ponga grabbed two tries and booted 12 points in a lively display, with Hymel Hunt, Starford To'a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese'ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phoenix Crossland also scoring.

Veteran Blake Green made a bright Knights debut after joining in midweek from the New Zealand Warriors, feeding Ponga for the opening try in the ninth minute and winning praise from half-back partner and captain Mitchell Pearce.

"What a super player Greenie is and what a great pick-up for us," Pearce said, quoted on the NRL website. "In the short time I've met him you can tell what a good guy he is.

"I've heard such good raps on him from other players at other clubs and he is really calm, really smart."

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