Dubbo’s Kaide Ellis will play on NRL grand final day after his Penrith Panthers downed the Wyong Roos in Sunday night’s Intrust Super Premiership decider.
The victory means the Panthers are state champions and will play in the weekend’s national championship game against the Papua New Guinea Hunters, the winners of Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup competition.
Ellis, starting again in the front row, was part of a forward pack which was immense in the 20-12 win, muscling up against the minor premiership-winning Roos outfit.
The Dubbo CYMS product has been a standout this season, going incredibly close to earning and NRL debut call-up along the way, and Penrith’s title-winning coach Garth Brennan was delighted to win for the likes of Ellis, Jed Cartwright, and a number of other promising youngsters.
“That’s why I coach and why I love this club,” he said.
“Six years ago when ‘Gus’ (Phil Gould) brought me down here the club was nowhere near the state it’s in but due to the work Gus has done, Jimmy Jones, Ivan (Cleary) and ‘Hook’ (Anthony Griffin) and all the other coaching staff has got the club into the position it is and there’s some exciting times ahead.”
Penrith started brightly in Sunday night’s decider but it was Wyong, featuring former Wellington Cowboys captain-coach Justin Toomey-White in the second row, which scored the first points courtesy of a Mitch Cornish penalty.
Toomey-White then pulled off a try-saving tackle to stop his side falling behind and the Roos then worked the ball down and scored to extend the advantage.
A Penrith try right on half-time locked it up at 6-all and the early stages of the second half were dominated by the Panthers, whop shot out to a 20-6 lead.
With 20 minutes remaining it was a tough ask for Wyong and despite getting one back it was the Panthers who were celebrating at the final whistle, making it three lower grade titles in five years for Brennan.
“I think it’s a little sweeter, to be honest because I knew we were not favourites this year and we were up against it,” he said.
“I’m proud of them, not surprised. They defended like that all year … our attack wasn’t the best but our defence got us through.”
Ellis and his men will now back up and take on a Papua New Guinea side which thrilled fans on its run to the title in Queensland.
With that match also being a final, it means Ellis will now play 12 deciders in the past eight years.
It’s also another chance for the 21-year-old to impress. Ellis will run out in front of a big crowd already knowing he is set to start the 2018 pre-season with the full-time Panthers NRL squad.