History shows the Raiders have the greatest rivalry in finals with the Panthers.
The 1990 and 1991 grand finals between the Raiders and the Panthers were epic contests. Canberra won the 1990 decider 18-14 before the Panthers accounted for the Raiders the following year, 19-12.
The 1990 grand final was somewhat overshadowed by the previous year’s decider between the Raiders and the Tigers, considered the greatest of all time. But the 1990 game was a classic, with both the Raiders and the Panthers scoring three tries.
In the end, the goal kicking of Mal Meninga was the difference as he slotted three from three and Panthers halfback Greg Alexander kicking only one from four attempts.
That rivalry extended to the coaches of the respective teams with Raiders coach and former Panther Tim Sheens going head to head with Panthers coach Phil Gould.
It set the scene for a rivalry that lasted for years.
In many respects, it appeared to die away in terms of intensity between the two teams for some time before being resurrected in the past couple of years.
The Raiders defeated the Panthers twice in 2019 on their way to the grand final against the Roosters.
Since then, the Panthers have dominated and it has become acrimonious.
It has boiled over several times over the past couple of years with suggestions from the Raiders that the Panthers have been arrogant in post-try celebrations.
The carry-on by Penrith players has been regarded by many Raiders fans as unsportsmanlike.
There was also the incident in 2021 when Joe Tapine was dragged into the Panthers’ post-try celebrations.
A scuffle developed and the Raiders were issued with a $10,000 breach notice after the Club’s trainer became involved in the melee, which spilled over the sideline.
Insult was added to the 30-10 victory by the Panthers when the Penrith crowd erupted into a Viking clap. It clearly was not the polished performance of the Canberra fans, but it was good enough to be recognised as a poor imitation.
The rivalry boiled over this season again following the 26-6 loss to the Panthers in Round 21 at Canberra Stadium.
Coach Ricky Stuart was banned for a week and fined $25,000 after calling Panthers playmaker Jaeman Salmon a “weak-gutted dog”.
This added fuel to the fire that appeared to have been burning for some time.
So with this history in mind, I can confidently claim that beyond the born-and-bred Penrith supporters, most Raiders fans will be supporting the Parramatta Eels on Sunday night.