Panthers unfazed by NRL finals numbers

What they lack in experience, they make up for in maturity and confidence.

That’s the belief of Penrith star Trent Merrin, whose team will be giving up a huge edge in finals’ experience in Sunday’s NRL elimination clash with Canterbury.

Merrin and veteran Peter Wallace represent more than half of the 24 finals games played by the team named to take on the Bulldogs at Allianz Stadium.

In contrast, Canterbury have 117, with the Morris twins alone almost matching Penrith’s total.

Merrin, who won a premiership with St George Illawarra in 2010, admitted the team lacked big-game experience but took solace from their good form in 2016, including their current five-game winning streak.

“We do have a young team, but the best way to combat that is just to worry about what we can control,” Merrin said on Wednesday.

“Throughout the year, we were still trying to find our feet but, the last few weeks, we’ve really come into our own and that’s all we need to focus on this week.”

Rookie halfback Nathan Cleary, for example, was still in high school this time last year.

But Merrin said he still backed Cleary, and the rest of his teammates, to step up against the Bulldogs, urging them to ignore the build-up and focus on their individual jobs.

“I’m here every day training with (Cleary) and I know the capabilities he has as a player,” he said.

“He’s just so mature for his age, the way he handles the game and he takes control. It wasn’t a big surprise to me because I knew what he was capable of doing.

“The best thing is just the maturity everyone has. The way they carry themselves for young players, it’s pretty amazing to see.”

Wallace himself hasn’t tasted finals football since a qualifying loss with Brisbane in 2012, but is also undeterred by Penrith’s lack of know-how in the big games.

“There’s only been six that have experienced the finals,” he said.

“(But) I don’t see it as any more of a disadvantage than an advantage. We’ll treat it as another game of footy – only the stakes are a lot higher.”

PANTHERS FINALS KNOW-HOW (games):

* Chris Grevsmuhl – one

* Jeremy Latimore – two

* Josh Mansour – two

* Suaia Matagi – one

* Trent Merrin – six

* Matt Moylan – two

* Peter Wallace – eight

* Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – two

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