Souths and Panthers fans across the Hunter don club colours and hope for grand final glory

WE CAN DO IT: South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter Callan Lawrence, outside his Hamilton home with sons Ezra, aged 3, and Mark, 7 months ahead of Sunday night's NRL grand final in Brisbane. Picture: Simone De Peak
WE CAN DO IT: South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter Callan Lawrence, outside his Hamilton home with sons Ezra, aged 3, and Mark, 7 months ahead of Sunday night's NRL grand final in Brisbane. Picture: Simone De Peak

Callan Lawrence had to wait 34 years to see his NRL side make a grand final. For his youngest son Mark, it's happened in less than a year.

The Hamilton dad and his two sons are among the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers fans dotted around the Hunter gearing up for Sunday's game.

Lockdown may have prevented them from publicly showing support this week, but plenty are proudly displaying colours at home.

The love for Souths runs right through Mr Lawrence's family bloodlines.

"I'm a lifelong supporter," the 40-year-old said. "It's a family tradition where dad went for Souths when he was young. Dad grew up in Hamilton just down the road from where Clive Churchill grew up, so I think that had something to do with him following Souths," he said.

"I've always had a soft spot for the Knights, but have stuck with South Sydney."

He joked his young sons don't know how they lucky they are to have the family's side in the grand final. "I had to wait 34 years," he said.

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Mr Lawrence was at the 2014 grand final - Souths' most recent - with his father and brother to witness the club win its 21st title.

"It was a special event. I was living in Randwick at the time," he said. "There were lots of celebrations. We made it down to Redfern Oval and the Woolpack Hotel."

He admitted he thought Souths would be "also rans" after being hammered by Penrith 56-12 earlier this year but is now convinced they can win on Sunday.

OUR YEAR: Panthers fans Dorothy Cowie and Stuart Walford. Picture: Marina Neil

OUR YEAR: Panthers fans Dorothy Cowie and Stuart Walford. Picture: Marina Neil

He has been surprised by how well the team has performed without superstar Latrell Mitchell, who was suspended until next year before the finals series.

"I thought it would have more of an impact," he said. "Although they got through to the preliminary [final] for the last three years in a row, so I knew they had a team that could still do something worthwhile in the finals.

"But the way they played against Penrith [in week one of the finals] was pretty impressive. I definitely think they can win. It will be close. I don't think it will be won until the final few minutes."

Diehard Panthers fans Dorothy Cowie, 58, and Stuart Walford, 60, are devastated they can't attend the game but stoked their team has clawed its way back to the grand final after losing last year's encounter by only six points to Melbourne.

The recently retired Cessnock couple usually attend "90 per cent" of Penrith's home games.

Ms Cowie, who was born in Penrith, bought her first season ticket in 1987 and the couple have been members for almost 20 years.

BIG DANCE: Penrith walloped South Sydney earlier this year. Picture: Pope

BIG DANCE: Penrith walloped South Sydney earlier this year. Picture: Pope

"Stuart was a Balmain boy, but he is now probably a bigger Penrith fan than I am," Ms Cowie said. "It's been an outlet for us over the years. I'm so passionate it's rubbed off on the grandkids."

Unable to go but with first dibs as a Panthers member, Mr Cowie bought tickets for her two Queensland-based daughters and their partners to attend Sunday's match.

"My daughter and I went to the 2003 grand final and it's a game you'll never forget when your team is in a grand final," she said. "It's been few and far between for us Panthers fans."

The grand final - as of Friday to be played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium - will be the first outside Sydney.

Kick-off is scheduled for 7.30pm (AEDT).

This story Souths and Panthers fans don colours and hope for grand final glory first appeared on Newcastle Herald.