League legend Peter Sterling believes the Panthers’ big-game experience off the back of deep finals runs and Origin campaigns will stand them in good stead tonight.
Since being beaten by Melbourne in last year’s decider, a number of Panthers players have played in two State of Origin series.
While the Panthers are a young group by age, Sterling believes the experience Ivan Cleary’s squad has will prove vital.
“Even though they’re the youngest team in the finals, I love the fact that they have much more experience when it comes to big games,” Sterling told Nine’s NRL Sunday Footy Show.
“Seven of them played in the Origin series this year, there was an Origin series after last year’s grand final, so they’ve got the big matches under their belt now.
“The hurt of last year is significant, but to me they’re just a much more experienced group now.”
Young players who know what it takes in pressure situations to get the job done and I think they’re well primed to do so tonight.
“Many of the Panthers who played at the Origin level were in Brad Fittler’s Blues squad, and he credited the way they’ve attacked this season after last year’s letdown.
“They’re just energised,” he said.
“They love what they’re doing and they turn up every single day smiling, ready to go. Whatever you ask them to do, they just attack and that’s what they’ve obviously done.
“Since the grand final last year, they went away and they said, ‘We need to be better’, and just day by day that’s how they approached their season and their training.”They all seem to have improved.
“I thought Stephen Crichton had a bit of a slow start to the year. He had a change of position and that might’ve hurt the ego a little bit, but he’s been fantastic on the wing and played fullback and done a great job.
“Nathan Cleary has added to his game, his kicking has been invaluable in the finals because they’ve only really scored tries off kicks. I feel like they’ve all improved.”