This weekend’s Intrust Super Premiership decider marks the 11th grand final Kaide Ellis has played in the past eight years.
But despite all that experience and success, the CYMS junior admits there’s always some nerves in the week leading up to the biggest match of the season.
Ellis will line up in the front row on Sunday when his Penrith Panthers battle the Wyong Roos for the right to hoist the silverware and also advance to a one-off game against the winner of Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup on NRL grand final day.
“There’s still that build-up and it’s a bit nerve-racking,” he said, adding the week leading up to the grand final has been a slow one.
“It’s a different type of footy compared to the 20s I played in last year but no matter what, it’s always a bit nerve-racking.”
Ellis is gunning for his seventh title in the past eight years on Sunday, he won titles with Dubbo CYMS before playing SG Ball and then under 20s with the Panthers.
This season has not only been Ellis’ first full-time campaign in senior footy, playing against vastly more experienced players week in, week out, but also his first in the front row.
The powerful ball runner made his name as an athletic strong back-rower at CYMS and in the Penrith under 20s but was asked to make the move to the middle of the field this season.
“I struggled a bit early on this season playing with the bigger blokes every week,” he said,
“I’m still learning each week now but I feel from the start of the year, playing in the front row too, I’ve developed.
“It’s a lot harder (at prop) and more physical. Playing in the middle of the field.”
One of the big reasons Ellis has developed as the year has gone on, and why he’s come so close to an NRL debut, is the fact he spent each week training with the likes of James Tamou and Trent Merrin.
That has helped him learn the level required and he’s taken that into each match.
“I enjoy it (front row) each week and I try and set my standard to the NRL standard,” he said.
“I try and get over someone in the other side. I usually pick someone in the position opposite and try and do better than them and then look at how I went after the game.”
Ellis, who is contacted to Penrith for next season as well, has also been working on his ball playing ability and that was evident last weekend when his quick hands helped set up the first try.
The Panthers shot out to a lead in that finals match against Canterbury before holding off the charging Bulldogs late and Ellis said his side can’t afford to make that mistake again.
“Our first half has been really good but then in the second half we can’t hold the ball,” he said.
“If we can work on our completions and defend well we should be right.”
The grand final will be shown on Fox League from 6.30pm on Sunday.