NRL Grand Final 2020: Kiwis battling it out for Premiership

Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm will square off in a highly anticipated NRL Grand Finals, dominated by Ivan/Nathan Cleary v Craig Bellamy/Cameron Smith storyline. 

But both teams can thank a plethora of New Zealand-born players for getting them this far, whether they are regular starters or squad players. 

At the start of the top-eight playoffs, more than 30 NZ players were scrapping for the title - now there are about 16 between the two sides.

For some, this will be their first Grand Final, while others are hoping to add more silverware to their trophy cabinets.

The Panthers last contested a Grand Final in 2003, when they beat Sydney Roosters 18-6, and their line-up included Kiwis Paul Whatuira, Joe Galuvao and Tony Puletua.

The Storm lost the 2018 Grand Final to the Roosters, but beat North Queensland Cowboys the previous year. 

Jessie and Kenny Bromwich, along with Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Felise Kaufusi played in both those Grand Finals, while Brandon Smith played in the latter.

Penrith Panthers

James Fisher-Harris 
109 career games
No Grand Finals

The NZ international is the most important Kiwi to the Panthers in this year's Grand Final. 

Along with his physicality, his ability to cover ground around the park is second to none. He finished among league leaders in post-contact metres (1347) and decoy runs (150), while finishing fourth in run metres (3659) and second in runs (394), just behind Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Last year, the Northland native won the Merv Cartwright Medal as Penrith's best, but a move to the middle of the park has seen his game rise to a new level and he may well win it again.

He may also be a sneaky underdog for the Clive Churchill Medal, awarded to the best player in the Grand Final.

James Tamou
266 career games
One Grand Final

The Penrith skipper will hope to end his stint with his second NRL Premiership, after playing a key role in the Cowboys' memorable win five years ago.

Palmerston North-born, but representing Australia, Tamou has rediscovered the form that saw him become one of the game's most in-demand props nearly a decade ago. 

James Tamou in action for the Māori All-Stars.
James Tamou in action for the Māori All-Stars. Photo credit: Photosport

Despite playing just over 40 minutes per game, Tamou averages more than 140m and has only missed six tackles in 21 games. 

Tamou has signed for the Wests Tigers next season. 

Zane Tetevano
120 career games
One Grand Final

The Panthers prop has had the rare luxury of three consecutive Grand Finals campaigns, as a member of the Roosters squad over the last two seasons, although he was a late scratching from the 2019 climax. 

Coach Trent Robinson still gave him his ring in a touching gesture. 

Jarome Luai 
39 career games
No Grand Finals

Eligible to represent New Zealand, Luai has been the perfect sidekick to Nathan Cleary in the Panthers' halves this season, taking on a James Maloney-esque role as the cheeky and crafty playmaker.

The 2017 Junior Kiwis captain has played every game for Penrith during their minor premiership run and has been a strong playmaker all season, finishing with 15 try assists and 12 forced drop-outs.

Moses Leota
80 career games
No Grand Finals

The Auckland-born prop has emerged through the Panthers system and has become a mainstay in the side, featuring in every game this season, usually off the bench. 

His form has caught the eye of Brad Fittler, who says Leota is in contention for an NSW Blues jersey.

Spencer Leniu
17 career games
No Grand Finals

Another Auckland-born prop who has come through the Panthers junior system, Leniu has had a breakthrough this year, after making his debut in 2019. 

Spencer Leniu.
Spencer Leniu. Photo credit: Getty

He has been a mainstay in the side during the Panthers' incredible win streak, although minutes have been scarce. 

Dean Whare
155 career games
No Grand Finals

Rotorua-born Whare hasn't played since Round 10, but winning a premiership with the Panthers would mean so much, as he's the second-longest serving player at the club. 

Caleb Aekins
12 career games
No Grand Finals

Hailing from Whangarei, Aekins has served as the Panthers' reserve fullback behind Dylan Edwards and is known for his strong running game. 

While he's unlikely to play in the final, winning a title would be a great way to end Aekins' time at the Panthers, with a move to Canberra looming. 

Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
31 career games
No Grand Finals

Brother of Kiwis captain Dallin, Watene-Zelezniak is Australian-born, but still eligible to play for New Zealand through Kiwi parentage. 

Melbourne Storm 

Jahrome Hughes
59 career games
No Grand Finals

Despite playing for the Storm in 2017 and 2018, this will be Hughes' first Grand Final and the 25-year-old heads into the match as Man of the Match Award in the win over Canberra Raiders. 

The rise of the Wellington-born Hughes is remarkable, after he began the 2019 season as the Storm's first-choice fullback, then became the side's halfback. 

Jahrome Hughes.
Jahrome Hughes. Photo credit: Photosport

A recent fan survey had Hughes as the equal second-best halfback this year, behind Cleary, while he beat the Panthers playmaker in the Most Improved category.

In just 16 games, he finished with 13 try assists, more than any Warriors player.

Brandon Smith
61 career games
One Grand Final

The Waiheke 'Wombat' will be out to avenge the Grand Final defeat of two years ago, with another stint off the bench. The intensity of the match usually lifts when Smith gets onto the park and no doubt that will happen again on the biggest stage. 

Smith broke his jaw earlier in the year, but recovered to feature in Melbourne's run to the final.

He seemed to reinjure it against the Raiders, but he's been given the green light to take part in the final.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona
123 career games
Two Grand Finals

One of the biggest players in the game, Wellington-born Asofa-Solomona will be aiming to win his second premiership, after playing in the 2017 victory.

He has played most of his career at prop, but has switched to lock in recent weeks and is still having a huge impact during matches.

Jesse Bromwich
247 career games
Four Grand Finals

The Auckland-born prop will play in his fifth Grand Final and chase his third premiership, after playing in the 2012 and 2017 wins, along with the 2016 and 2018 losses. 

In big games like this, with youngsters in the team, having a Jesse Bromwich-like player with finals experience is vital.

Kenny Bromwich
170 career games
Three Grand Finals

Bromwich will team up with older brother Jesse in their fourth Grand Final together, but this could be the first time the pair both start. 

Felise Kaufusi

131 career games
Two Grand Finals

Auckland-born, but representing Australia, Kaufusi hopes to win his second NRL title, adding to his 2016 triumph. 

Albert Vete
54 career games
No Grand Finals

Auckland-born Vete has only featured in a handful of games, since arriving from NZ Warriors midway through last season, so he's unlikely to get his first taste of Grand Final footy.

Join us at 9pm Sunday for live updates of the NRL Grand Final between Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm