Less than a month ago Penrith players angrily baulked at suggestions they were wooden spoon contenders.
Fast forward to this Saturday and the Panthers find themselves playing off against Newcastle at Pepper Stadium in a game that’s likely decide who finishes dead last on the ladder.
The Panthers and Knights are 15th and 16th respectively and both sides have spoken passionately this week about not finishing bottom of the pile.
“We’ve got to be enthusiastic because no one wants that dreaded spoon,” Panthers winger Josh Mansour said.
“We’ve just got to flush what happened on the weekend and we owe it ourselves and we owe it to our members.”
The battle to avoid the spoon is a race of three going into the final round of the year.
The loser of the Panthers-Knights match will almost certainly come in last but could slide up a spot should the Wests Tigers suffer a heavy defeat to St George Illawarra on Saturday.
For the Knights, it would be the club’s second spoon – the other coming in 2005 – and represent one of the biggest falls from grace in Australian rugby league history having led the competition after four rounds.
Should they finish last, they would be just the second team in history to go from first after four or more rounds to finishing with the wooden spoon.
The only other side to sink so fast so quickly was the South Sydney team of 1975.
The Panthers have also fallen dramatically over a short period of time.
Last year they finished fourth and got to within one game of the grand final.
Not since Canterbury of 07-08 – who reached week three of the finals before finishing last the next year – has a side taken such a dramatic dive in the space of 12 months.
“The boys know the situations that we’re in,” Mansour said.
“If you asked me the same question a few weeks back, we wouldn’t have thought we’d be in this situation.
“It’s the reality and we’ve got to remain focused for the week. It’s also a short turnaround so we’ve got to ensure we don’t have any excuses for the week.”