Start dreaming of a grand final: Wallace
Penrith players began their first week of the finals dreaming of a fairytale grand final birth.
"I thought about it the whole week," seven-gamer Will Smith told NRL.com. "I tried to block it out so I could play this game, but I just couldn't."
Well, now his injured skipper has given his blessing for his team-mates to dream all they want after their epic 19-18 victory over defending premiers the Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
It was their first finals win in almost a decade but, more importantly, it sent them straight through to the preliminary finals.
In other words: they're now 80 minutes away from a stunning ascension to a decider.
"You have to [dream]. You're one game away," a track-suited Peter Wallace told NRL.com on Saturday night.
"We had a goal at the start of the year of the top four. We made that. Then it was this game. And the next one's a Grand Final."
It's an astounding effort from a Panthers side with half its players yet to experience the intensity of finals football.
While the Panthers boast four players with grand final experience, they're also fielding a handful of players who've yet to complete an entire season of first grade.
Compare that to their highly-rated opponents on Saturday night, who possessed no less than 12 players of Origin or international experience.
But after watching his team-mates overcome their inexperience barrier against the Roosters, Wallace said nothing would surprise him about his junior club anymore.
Asked whether their recent resiliency has surprised him, he said: "Nah, it doesn't now. What they've showed over the past month or six weeks, is that it's in them.
"We showed again tonight, they were pretty much gone there. Three minutes to go, and to score a try like they did, Dallin [Watene-Zelezniak], an 18-year-old kid, set up that try for Deano [Whare]. And then Sowie [Jamie Soward] slotting [the sideline conversion]... it's typified our year."
Smith, who only made his NRL debut in Round 21 against the Bulldogs, said he was still pinching himself at how the beginning of his first grade career has transpired.
"It's just an awesome feeling. To beat them, on the night they were awarded minor premiers... and now we're one game from a GF? I don't think it's hit me yet," Smith said.
"I'm amazed how it's all happened. I'm only seven games in and now we're 80 minutes away. I was pretty dirty on myself after the first half, letting the Jennings try in.
"But other than that, we were still confident in coming back. We just had to fix a few things in our game and come away with a win.
"Even when Mitchell [Pearce scored late in the game] it wasn't over. We never think like that. We still had six minutes to go and anything could've happened."
Wallace is roughly a month into his rehabilitation from a season-ending ACL injury, although Penrith will have forwards Adam Docker and Isaah Yeo, as well as winger David Simmons, available for selection in two weeks time.