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Scott Bailey

Dynasty or drought-breaker in NRL decider

Nathan Cleary is hoping to lead Penrith to back-to-back NRL successes with victory over Parramatta. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

What's harder: The pressure of trying to break the game's most talked about drought or attempting to build an NRL dynasty?

It's a question the rugby league world will find out the answer to on Sunday.

Parramatta will enter the NRL decider as the fairytale story.

A team that has long been close but never close enough, trying to end the longest current drought in the NRL at 36 years.

Penrith, though, remain almightily hard to beat.

With the best junior system in the country, the likes of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo have made them the envy of the NRL for three years.

One season after breaking their own 18-year drought, the Panthers can now become only the second team in almost three decades to go back-to-back.

"I'm not quite sure what's tougher just yet," Penrith captain Yeo told AAP.

"Obviously we were lucky enough to break (that drought). In terms of going back-to-back, we'll find out this weekend."

In Sunday's decider, the NRL has its marketing dream.

The first western-Sydney grand final since the 1980s, and an Eels team that has twice figured out how to beat the Penrith juggernaut this year.

They know they must find a way to pressure Cleary's kicks, subdue the Panthers' back three and keep their own offloading game going.

At times in recent days the Parramatta region has been in a state of delirium.

This is after all the same team that had Cumberland Oval burnt down after their first title in 1981.

But unlike Eels of the past, this side has done everything possible to embrace the storyline.

Mitch Moses has spoken of his heartache of being there when the Eels lost the 2009 decider, and the dream of being the No.7 to deliver for Parramatta.

"These boys wouldn't have even been alive when Parramatta won it," Yeo continued.

"(The drought) is not a thing for them, I wouldn't imagine.

"It certainly wasn't a thing for us. But I just felt like the experience of being in that arena before is going to help (Penrith)."

Others have seen firsthand how Parramatta have handled the week, adamant the drought-breaking aspect of Sunday night won't be the issue.

"They're definitely embracing it," NSW State of Origin captain James Tedesco, who is close with several Eels, said.

"Mitch (Moses) seems really calm. I saw him (Tuesday). Obviously he had his newborn as well.

"He's had a big week but he seems cool, calm and relaxed. He's probably the factor for them.

"He needs to be in control and get his kicking game on. I think if they follow him then they'll be a big chance of winning."

Tedesco's heart is with his former Wests Tigers teammate and housemate Moses and Parramatta, but he also knows what Penrith are setting up.

This has every making of a dynasty at the foot of the mountains.

A win would make them premiers in every grade from the NRL down to under-18s, and leave them level with Tedesco's Sydney Roosters of 2018 and 2019 to defend a title in the NRL-era.

"They are a big chance to go back to back. Which three years ago was hard to do. And now they're doing it pretty easily," Tedesco said.

"You have a bit of expectation that's hard to back up. But they've done well.

"They've made the grand finals, they've made three in a row. That's bloody hard to do. It just shows how talented their team is."

By Tedesco's own admission, it's hard to see when Penrith's dominance ends. They loom as a genuine title threat for years to come.

Perhaps they could follow the lead of Parramatta's 1980s team and win three straight.

But first, Sunday night awaits. And an answer to the question rugby league fans have asked all week.

Dynasty, or drought-breaker?

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