NRL under fire over 'embarrassing' move in grand final presentation

Brian To'o, pictured here handing the pink Telstra hat to a young footballer after the NRL grand final.
Brian To'o hands the pink Telstra hat to a young footballer after the NRL grand final. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The NRL has been accused of ruining the moment for a number of young footballers with a shameless marketing ploy after Sunday night's grand final.

The NRL followed the lead of the AFL on Sunday night and got some Under-10s players to present the premiership rings to the victorious Penrith Panthers players.

'COMPLETE JOKE': NRL world in uproar over grand final 'disgrace'

'HAVE SOME CLASS': Panthers fans under fire over ugly scenes

As we see every year after the AFL grand final, the players presented the kids with a commemorative hat before being handed their rings by the youngsters.

But what should have been a heartwarming moment backfired brutally on the NRL as fans and commentators condemned the hats that were given to the young players.

Rather than being presented with a Penrith Panthers or NRL grand final hat, they were given a pink cap with the Telstra logo on it - the NRL's major sponsor.

Leading journalist Todd Balym wrote on Twitter: “Why are the Panthers giving the young kids Telstra hats and not Panthers hats? Kids would be thrilled. Ambush marketing fail.”

Commentator Russell Barwick wrote: “Honestly can we do better than a Telstra pink cap for the Panthers to give to the kids presenting rings? What about a Penrith hat or footy?”

Others described the move as 'embarrassing' and 'horrible'.

The post-match presentation provided a number of comical moments, with one of the kids forgetting to present the ring to Api Koroisau before walking away.

Liam Martin also appeared to drop his ring while hugging Panthers legend Greg Alexander on the stage.

Stephen Crichton, pictured here wearing the pink Telstra hat as he makes his way onto the stage.
Stephen Crichton wearing the pink Telstra hat as he makes his way onto the stage. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Panthers' winning ways show no signs of stopping

The Panthers are so used to winning that they even managed to get sponsors for their premiership goggles.

Their 28-12 win over Parramatta capped off three of the most dominant years in NRL history with back-to-back titles.

Donned in KFC-branded goggles and with premiership packs that included kilos of chicken and specially-labelled champagne, Panthers players spoke afterwards of a desire to be the dominant team of the modern era.

Penrith have won 67 of 78 games in the past three seasons, with their average winning margin beyond 13 points.

Their win over Parramatta was one of the most one-sided grand finals this century, with only two late Eels tries breaking the blue-and-golds' duck and reigning the margin in.

Panthers players, pictured here celebrating with the trophy after their victory in the NRL grand final.
Panthers players celebrate with the trophy after their victory in the NRL grand final. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

In this year alone the Panthers won every grade from the NRL down to under-18s, becoming the first club to do so in the game's 115-season history.

Prior to the Panthers, only the Sydney Roosters had gone back-to-back since the Super League.

No side has won three straight titles in the past 40 years, with the great Eels team of the early 1980s the last team to do so.

"We just take it one day at a time," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said after the game.

"I don't give a s*** about next year, we'll enjoy tonight.

"It's been an unbelievable season for our club. It's never been done before, four grades.

"It's hard to put it into words other than to say how proud we all are.

"Our club is very aligned. Everybody is their own person but we are all woven together by a common thread of trying to do our best for the club."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.