Penrith coach Anthony Griffin insists Saturday’s final-round clash against Manly remains a “do-or-die” encounter despite having all but secured an NRL finals spot.
North Queensland’s defeat on Thursday means the Panthers need to lose by an unlikely 37 points or more against the Sea Eagles to allow St George Illawarra to sneak into the top eight, with a win over Canterbury.
However, Griffin is demanding his men bounce back from last week’s shock loss to the Dragons that snapped a seven-game winning run and build momentum heading into the finals.
“We’ve been finishing the year off really well and we were very disappointed last week with the loss there against St George,” Griffin said on Friday.
“So for us it’s a do-or-die game, that’s the way we’re approaching it. What happens after the game, we’ll worry about that then.”
Griffin denied the defeat took the steam out of their winning streak and pointed to his team’s success over the past two months.
A loss for the Sea Eagles opens the door for the Dragons to leapfrog them into eighth spot, giving the Panthers yet another challenge heading towards the finals.
“We’ve been in positions like this all along the last eight weeks,” Griffin said.
“We had to go down to Canberra and beat them and we’ve had teams coming at us for the last eight weeks, (Gold Coast, Canterbury), all playing for their season.
“And it’s been something that our group’s really handled well.
“It’s not going to be anything new to us, but it’s obviously going to be a real pressure-cooker atmosphere over there tomorrow.”
Griffin also said he would give skipper Matt Moylan until kickoff to come back from a hamstring injury despite failing to train during Friday’s captain’s run.
The Panthers five-eighth had initially been ruled out until the finals but was included in the extended squad when the team was named on Tuesday.
“We’ll give him every chance. I’ll go and check him out now, he did some more running this morning,” Griffin said.