Panthers Grand Final win sparks joy for fans

Penrith Panthers' stunning victory in the NRL Grand Final was met with delight in the Blue Mountains, bringing a welcome dose of joy to local fans after months of lockdown and being unable to cross the Nepean to see the team play at BlueBet Stadium.

The Panthers showed resilience and determination in holding off South Sydney Rabbitohs to win the Grand Final 14-12 on a balmy night at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, sending fans both in the stadium and closer to home into raptures.

Panthers fanatic Anthea Strathdee lives with her family in Blaxland. An ardent fan all her life, Mrs Strathdee spent the week leading up to the Grand Final decorating her house in all manner of elaborate Panthers decorations: giant heads of star players, posters, flags and more. And the victory on Sunday has made her efforts all the sweeter.

"I've been crying, we want to watch the game again," said Mrs Strathdee as she struggled to get her voice back on Monday morning. "I'm just so bloody thrilled and I just can't wait until they come home, I really can't - I want to be the first person there.

"I just knew we were going to do it, at full-time we all cuddled each other and screamed and soaked it all up."

The Panthers won on the back of an intercept try from winger Stephen Crichton in the 66th minute.

"That intercept was it - I just knew. And our defence - we just picked them up every time and threw them backwards, it was unreal.

Mrs Strathdee's efforts to transform her house and front yard into a Panthers shrine even attracted the attention of Channel 7 and Channel 10, both of whom featured her property in various broadcasts in the week leading up to Grand Final day.

"I've loved the Panthers since I was a little girl," says Mrs Strathdee. "My dad loved the footy, so I've grown up with my dad's passion.

"Because of COVID we couldn't go to those last few games of the season, and we had nothing to look forward to. So we just had to embrace [decorating the house], get the kids involved, keep them happy, so we just went crazy.

"And it's rubbed off on the neighbours, they put flags and decorations up too. Neighbours stopped and wished us good luck, all the kids from the neighbourhood came round and hung out here."

Not content just to adorn her house and lawn with Panthers colours, Mrs Strathdee also pulled off the significant trick of installing a giant screen on her driveway on which to watch the game with (socially distanced) friends and family.

"I'm a bit crazy, I just don't know when to stop."

The Panthers win is a breath of fresh air for both the Penrith area and the Blue Mountains, with the regions having been in lockdown since June 26.

"It's just great to have a big team close to our community that we support, and have something we can all talk about apart from COVID," said Mrs Strathdee.

"And it's great for young kids as well - to look at something for their future. If the young Panthers can do it, the youngest team in the NRL, then kids can push on with their hopes and dreams too."