Deja vu watching Penrith in the grand final and Parramatta in 2009

Classy Penrith centre Stephen Crichton battles Melbourne Storm opposite Brenko Lee in last Sunday night's grand final. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Classy Penrith centre Stephen Crichton battles Melbourne Storm opposite Brenko Lee in last Sunday night's grand final. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Watching Penrith bumble and fumble its way through the first 60 minutes of the grand final against Melbourne Storm was like watching a replay of the 2009 decider between the Storm and Parramatta.

After 18 rounds, the Eels had won only five matches and was third-last.

But on the back of one of the greatest individual runs we have ever seen from Jarryd Hayne, who claimed six straight man of the match awards, Parramatta won all six to qualify eighth for finals.

The club's unique ad-lib attacking style carried them to exciting wins over the Dragons, Titans and Bulldogs.

After round 18, the Eels were $151 to win the premiership. Now, they were just 80 minutes from a title. But standing in the way was the methodical machine Melbourne.

Could Parramatta hold its nerve and play that ad-lib, exciting brand? No, it couldn't.

The players got nervous and played a more conservative brand of football to fall behind 22-6 with just over 20 minutes left.

With the game almost gone, the Eels returned to their enterprising play and stormed home, falling just short 23-16.

Penrith's season story was different to its fiercest western Sydney rival.

The young Panthers had won 17 straight heading into the grand final. It wasn't quite the same ad-lib style of play as the Eels, who kept the ball alive through players like unorthodox centre Krisnan Inu.

But, just like Parramatta, the youngsters couldn't hold their nerve.

They were down 26-0 early in the second half and, just like the decider 11 years earlier, the team getting flogged came racing home.

That's the problem when you want something so badly, it hurts. And it's not just professional sport. Ask the C grade golfer who has a curling four-four putt to win the club championship. Or the reserve grade soccer player who has a penalty shot to win - or lose - the premiership.

It's extraordinarily hard to find that hazy line between having fun and winning. Parramatta's 2009 grand final players know exactly how Penrith's players are feeling.

Everybody says the young Panthers will be stronger for the experience and will contest another decider soon.

Try telling the Eels that. They haven't been back.

This story Deja vu watching young Panthers in the grand final, Parramatta in 2009 first appeared on The Border Mail.