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'.
With zero reference to the grand final?
— Madeleine King MP (@MadeleineMHKing) October 2, 2022
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?
— Russell Barwick (@russbarwick) October 2, 2022
These kids will look back so fondly on their pink Telstra hats that they received from the Panthers players 😂 #NRLGF
— PointsBet AU (@PointsBet_AU) October 2, 2022
Seriously how far out of touch are the @nrl. Changing kids footy rules, late grand finals so kids are asleep n then present the kids with a Telstra hat on stage fun me give them a panthers hat at least #nflgrandfinal
— Mike 🦅🦅🦅 (@Mike__Roach) October 2, 2022
Total BS for the Penrith players handing out Telstra caps to the kids giving them their premiership rings. Surely the kids deserve a Penrith Grand Final cap as a keepsake rather than corporate marketing junk! #nrlgrandfinal #PenrithPanthers #nrl #FoxSports
— David Southall (@david_southall) October 2, 2022
So the kiddies get given a Telstra hat? Really? Just what every child wants! #NRLGF
— Charlotte Corday (@C_Corday) October 2, 2022
Are Parra the real winners for not having to wear those horrible pink Telstra hats? #NRLGF
— Rebecca B (@LadyMacBec) October 2, 2022
Give the kids some decent hats! The AFL hand out New Era caps to the kids with the team logo, not cheap arse telstra ones #NRLGF
— Gareth Olver 〓〓 🐧 (@GBO26) October 2, 2022
Given the kids a pink Telstra hat is an absolute disgrace #NRLGF
— Chris Meister 🏏⚾️🏈🏒 (@sportmeister_) October 2, 2022
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.
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.
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."
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