Four years of pain driving Penrith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Four years of pain driving Penrith

By Todd Balym 05/09/2009 11:06:54 AM Comments (0)

The pain of missing the NRL finals for the past four seasons will be the driving force behind Penrith's bid for an upset over Newcastle on Sunday in a playoff for the last spot in the top eight.

The Panthers travel to EnergyAustralia Stadium knowing a victory over the Knights will secure their first finals appearance since 2004 and make amends for last year's end-of-season fadeout that cost them a place in the playoffs.

Veteran prop Frank Puletua said the Panthers know they are capable of causing some damage in the finals and is confident they will take their last opportunity to seal a place in the top eight.

"We just needed an opportunity and I think as a team we believe we deserve it and we will take it with both hands," said Puletua.

"We've had a lot of disappointments in the last couple of seasons. The last time we played semis was in 2004 and ever since then we've known we've had a good playing squad we just haven't really put it together.

"The season has been a few things up and down and now we've put ourselves in a position so now we have to take it.

"If this opportunity slips away we have to wait until next year."

The Panthers and Knights have yet to face each other in 2009 and both carry indifferent form into the final round encounter after heaving defeats last week.

The Knights were trounced 30-14 by Canberra on Monday night, while Penrith were smashed 48-6 by Parramatta in a lop-sided contest which carried significant hype and a parochial crowd supporting the Eels.

Puletua says the Panthers have learnt how to deal with an imposing crowd and would use last week's lessons when they travel to Newcastle's daunting home ground.

"I think even a lot of the senior guys would have learnt a bit about how to handle our side and some of the adversity we confronted last week," he said.

"We were up against a big home crowd and all the things in the first half went against us so hopefully we have a bit more of a stronger resolve this week.

"That has probably left us in pretty good stead for this weekend because we know the Novacastrians are really passionate about their side.

"We will go there and cop plenty from their crowd and we know that and hopefully we will learn a bit from last weekend."

But while their recent form hasn't been sparkling, both sides have shown title-winning potential this year with victories over some of the competition's leading sides.

Penrith coach Matthew Elliott says the key for him will be just to get his side playing their natural game and not to try too hard.

"If I start asking people to do something special they will think it's going to take something special to win the game," said Elliott.

"You just play your best footy, it's that simple."

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