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Penrith ready to embrace pain of 2020

·2-min read

Penrith players have been told to embrace the pain of 2020, with NRL history showing last year's grand final heartbreak can be a potent driving factor against South Sydney.

The Panthers have been happy all season to admit that they are fuelled by last year's horror first half against Melbourne, when they fell 20-0 behind in the decider before losing 26-20.

That motivation has been evident in several games this season, most notably in their gritty round-three win over Melbourne and in Saturday's 10-6 preliminary final victory over the same opponents.

And that won't change now they are preparing for a grand final against the Rabbitohs.

Six of the last seven runners-up to return to the grand final in the following season have won, with the only exception being the Sydney Roosters in 2004.

Penrith's first premiership came in just that fashion, losing to Canberra in the 1990 decider before bouncing back to beat the Raiders for the title a year later.

Last year's despair was the first thing on the Pathers' minds after fulltime on Saturday.

"That's something we spoke about right after the game. Enjoy the moment but remember that feeling from last year," five-eighth Jarome Luai said.

"That motivated us through the whole year and we're keeping that close to our hearts.

"We spoke about how hard it is to make a grand final. Not many players get that opportunity.

"From that perspective, we're going to enjoy that fact that we're here again.

"But we've got that feeling from last year so we're looking forward to that."

Luai also put it on himself to step up in the decider, after a quiet back half to the season.

He is ready to take his battle with Cody Walker personally, after doing likewise before Penrith's first clash with the Rabbitohs earlier this year.

The Panthers flogged Souths 56-12 on that day, and Luai was a week later handed Walker's NSW Origin No.6 jersey.

But Walker then got the better of him in the first week of the finals, as Luai was silenced and South Sydney won out 16-10.

"With personal battles, I really like that challenge mentality," Luai said.

"He's probably the best five-eighth in the game right now and with his form as well.

"I was a bit conservative and letting the boys outside of me do a lot of the work (in the opening finals clash).

"I could have chimed in a bit more and added a bit more to their game. just looking to get involved a bit more.

"That's when I'm at my best, running early."

Luai brushed off any concerns about whether he should have been able to return to the field after a concussion check against Melbourne, saying he passed his HIA "pretty easily".

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