Matt Moylan has urged his Penrith teammates to find another gear for Saturday’s NRL semi-final against Canberra.
The Panthers surged into premiership contention after disposing of September specialists Canterbury last weekend, and will now face off against another 2016 surprise packet in the Raiders.
The eight Panthers who made their finals debut last week all passed with flying colours, however Moylan warned that week two is a far different proposition to week one.
“It was a bit of the unknown for a few of the guys last week and now that they’ve got that one game out of the way and know what to expect, it’s good,” Moylan told reporters on Wednesday.
“But it’s going to go up another level this week. They’re a similar (forward) pack in size so it’s going to be another physical and tough game.”
While Penrith’s line-up hasn’t changed for the past month – all of them wins – much of the game’s build-up will centre around the fitness of Raiders duo Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson.
Five-eighth Austin is expected to return from a broken hand and hooker Hodgson is unlikely to recover in time from an ankle injury suffered against Cronulla last week.
However Moylan said the Panthers were counting on both to play.
“They’ll be doing everything they can to be out on the field. We’ve just got to prepare as if they’re playing and then focus on what we can control and work on that through the week,” he said.
The Penrith fullback said the key to victory – and a preliminary final date with Melbourne – was to halt the Raiders’ forward pack in the same manner they did to the Bulldogs last week.
The Panthers survived a 20-minute Bulldogs onslaught before breaking open the shackles with a four-try second half.
“Obviously with their big pack, they’re going to try and set a platform for their halves to play off the back of, and guys like Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua to come in,” he said.
“They’ve been in outstanding form in the back end of the year. We’re going to have to limit their opportunities they can get.”
Moylan also warmed to the idea of the icy reception the team would get in Canberra, complete with the controversial Viking Clap that has dominated headlines early this week.
“It’s good to bring the fans into the game a bit more. It’s good to see that much support behind the (Raiders) side,” he said.