Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary spoke to the media on Saturday morning about how his side has learnt from their previous loss to the Rabbitohs and in last year’s grand final.
After losing in week one of finals to South Sydney and narrowly getting past Parramatta the following week, many questioned if Penrith had the ability to win on the biggest stages.
The Panthers seemed to put those doubts to rest after an impressive display over Melbourne to qualify for the grand final, however, they still are yet to prove their status as the best team in the NRL.
Cleary spoke openly about the mistakes his side made in their prior outings that resulted in high-profile losses.
“It was probably more what we learnt about ourselves that night, we were probably just a bit off and in a big finals game that can be the difference,” Cleary said.
“They were probably a bit hungrier than us that night, it looked like they put a lot into that game. In the end, we left Townsville that night feeling like we didn’t put our best foot forward.
“I feel like we’ve done that in the last couple of weeks [put their best foot forward], we’ve corrected a few things and improved gradually since then.
“We just want to make sure we get there tomorrow night and give our best performance, we feel like that can be better than that night in Townsville.”
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Cleary admitted that his side didn’t face many adversaries in the lead up to last year’s decider.
“It was different circumstances last year, a lot of the boys were playing in a grand final for the first time, we went into that game having won 17 straight,
“It was pretty much plain sailing most of the time, we had a couple of tough games in the finals for sure but our squad was pretty fit throughout the year and we just won games, it became a habit, a routine just winning”. Cleary said on last year’s grand final.
“The Storm as they’re so good at just got the jump on us early and we didn’t quite handle it, to be honest, we found ourselves a chance to win at the end of the game and as it turns out the end of the game was the start of our new season,
“I was very proud of the way we fought back but we felt like we definitely missed an opportunity, it’s a new season, new players, different circumstances, our journey this year has been totally different and much more difficult,
“We’ve had lots of hurdles to overcome with origin, injuries and form slumps you name it, we’ve still been able to win most of our games and feel a bit more experienced and ready”.
Cleary has found himself on the wrong side of the history books heading into Sunday’s decider as he now sits second in the most NRL games coached without a premiership (369).
His opposing coach Wayne Bennett claimed “no doubt he cares about it”, there is little doubt that this would be weighing over Cleary in the lead-up to the game as he looks to prove his worth in the coaching ranks.
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