Panthers' eyes now on national prize
The Penrith Panthers will have to wait one more week for Mad Monday as they gear up towards a showdown with Intrust Super Cup premiers the Northern Pride on NRL Grand Final Day at ANZ Stadium.
Having completely dismantled the Newcastle Knights 48-12 to take out the NSW Cup premiership on Sunday, the Panthers will now settle in to face on the North Queensland Cowboys feeder club in the inaugural National State Championship.
With both teams finishing with 20 wins and four losses from the regular season to both take out their respective competition's minor and major premierships, the State Championship will truly host the best of Australia's best in 2014.
With the new concept set to excite fans, Panthers coach Garth Brennan insists his team will be "absolutely" taking it seriously next Sunday.
"That's our focus now," Brennan told NRL.com. "It is a fantastic concept, it is going to be a great day and we're looking to finish our year off in style."
"[Northern Pride] were the best side up there by a mile too. We are very similar teams and have travelled down similar paths this year. They have a lot of quality players and we're looking to give it our best crack. It is exciting."
A very emotional Panthers winger Eto Nabuli agreed with his coach but was ultimately happy to secure the premiership after losing last year's decider with the club's former feeder team Windsor.
"I want to thank the boys and I'm very proud of them for their efforts," Nabuli told NRL.com.
"There is one more final to go. I'm ready to give my best for the week coming up. It is a grand final so you have to take it seriously.
"I cannot tell you how happy I am right now."
With his players speaking very highly of him in the aftermath of their dominant victory over Newcastle, a very proud Brennan spoke of his confidence heading into next weekend, speaking specifically of his belief in his team's ability to score points after dominating Newcastle from the get-go.
"I knew we could score points. They're a quality side Newcastle but I knew if we were on our game defensively and if we defended like we did we could score points," Brennan said.
While they were rattled early against the Wentworthville Magpies in their preliminary final, Brennan described last week as a "blessing in disguise", ultimately helping his side to a huge advantage over Newcastle.
"We weren't going to get ambushed again like we did last week. It was a blessing in disguise really that we had that game," Brennan said. "They gave us a bit of a rocket at the start and that helped us come home and finish strong."
The NRL grand final day will also feature the 2014 Holden Cup grand final between the Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors before the big one between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in what is set to be a bumper day of rugby league.