1 September 2021
Another fantastic NRL Premiership concludes with the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs going head-to-head in the Grand Final. Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium will serve as host of not only the two teams but a plethora of Kiwi players plying their trade on the big stage.
Sixteen years separate his visits to the big dance and rugby league icon Benji Marshall will be looking to repeat his grand final success. Initially approaching Wayne Bennett for a coaching role at Souths, Bennett, in turn, offered Kiwi #717 a spot in the squad as he displayed his ability to still play on a high level. This season, Marshall has been a key figure off the bench for the Rabbitohs, bringing experience to the second unit. The man from Whakatane has been hailed as one of the greatest to compete in the competition, with opposing five-eight and Junior Kiwi Jarome Luai claiming Benji to be his idol and modelling his game after him. Marshall will be crucial for Souths to win their first NRL Premiership since 2014.
Hailing from Northland, James Fisher-Harris (#801) has turned himself into one of the best props in the game. His tireless work on both attack and defence, to go with his uncanny ability to break tackles, has earned him two consecutive Dally M Prop of the Year awards.
The Whangarei Marist junior averaged 154 metres per game and about 100 post-contact metres on his way to his second Grand Final in two years. A leader for this young Penrith squad, Fisher-Harris, has been instrumental in the success of the western Sydney outfit and will be looking for redemption on Sunday.
Starting on the Rabbitohs wing this Sunday is Jaxson Paulo, who strangely has a similar path to this stage as teammate Benji Marshall. Born in Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore, Paulo moved to the Gold Coast at a young age and attended Keebra Park State High School, including alumni Benji Marshall. Paulo moved from the Titans to Souths and made his debut in 2020 in round ten. The winger has scored 13 tries in 24 appearances, including two against Manly in the 2021 Preliminary as they advanced to the grand finale.
2021 was a renaissance for Taane Milne. The Fijian international struggled for games at the Warriors, which paid dividends to South Sydney. Milne came into the squad mid-season and went on a run of eight tries in 12 games, including a hat-trick against North Queensland in round 17. Auckland born Milne has also played for the Junior Kiwis, where he lined up with James Fisher-Harris and the New Zealand Māori residents. Milne will serve as Souths 18th man on Sunday.
New Zealand eligible players: Spencer Leniu, Steven Marsters, Patrick Mago.
Previous Junior Kiwis: James Fisher-Harris, Taane Milne, Steven Marsters, Jarome Luai.
Kiwi Internationals: Benji Marshall #717, James Fisher-Harris #801