SUNDAY’S National Rugby League decider will see the Penrith Panthers face the Melbourne Storm but the game has been described as the “Penrith Panthers versus Papua New Guinea” because of the support PNG international Justin Olam will be getting from home, in what is the 26-year-old’s grand final debut.
“It’s definitely unreal but for me personally I just try not to think about it and I’m just trying to treat it like a normal game,” Olam said this week.
It was Olam’s hard tackles and dedication to the game that first caught the eye of PNG Kumuls coach Michael Marum.
“He wasn’t scared at all of anyone and he always put his body on the line even in training,” Marum said.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has also praised centre Olam’s physical presence on the field, saying that as a player, Olam would run though a brick wall if asked.
But no-one sings the praises of the former SP Hunter more than fans at home.
Meanwhile, Bellamy is backing his left-edge attackers in Olam, winger Josh Addo-Carr and forward Kenny Bromwich to trouble the Panthers at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Jesse Bromwich’s younger brother has emerged from the shadow of his sibling and teammate to help the Storm to their fourth grand final in five years.
Graduating from last year’s bench utility role, Kenny’s subtle touches and clever lines have complemented the speed of Addo-Carr, brutality of centre Olam and creativity of five-eighth Cameron Munster.
That devastating combination has taken the heat off rake Cameron Smith in the middle of the park and freed up Jahrome Hughes in his first full year in the No.7 jersey.
“I’ve always been defensive-minded but we made a real point this year, especially with the rule changes, that we had to change some of the things that we did,” Bellamy said.
“The strengths of our players; we’ve been able to use those more often and work a way that we could integrate those strengths.
“There’s been a bit of experimenting to be honest, at training and in games.” Before last week’s preliminary final victory, the Storm had scored 16 tries in the set after a set restart — the equal most of any team this season — and almost 20 per cent of their tries from inside their own half in a clear sign the experimenting has paid off.
“It was hard in the start (to work out Munster); a lot of the time he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Bromwich said. We’re pretty tight … had a lot of time together, me, Munster, Foxx (Addo-Carr) and Juzzie (Olam).
“We just use each other’s strengths really well.
“Munster does what he wants, we’ve got Fox with his speed, Juzzie will run through a brick wall and I try to add a little bit of creativity there and run the ball when I can.”
Addo-Carr said playing outside Olam — nicknamed “the human brick” — had its benefits.
But he said the introduction of back-rower Bromwich was the final flourish.
“We’ve got a really good mix of smarts, power, speed and Cam Munster ugly,” he said.
“Kenny’s a real leader in our side; plenty of chat.” – Agencies
“He’s always been a good player but after coming off the bench the last couple of years, he’s found his spot and he’s an unsung hero in our team.” – Agencies