Gould's calming words for Panthers 20s
Panthers general manager and rugby league legend Phil Gould wasted little time in preparing Penrith's Holden Cup team for the pressures of grand final week, addressing the group immediately after their preliminary final win over the Warriors on Friday night.
The minor premiers crushed a brave Warriors outfit 50-16 in the grand final qualifier, progressing to their second under-20s decider in the space of two years and in coach Cameron Ciraldo's first year in charge.
Prior to the players ripping into the team song, the three-time grand final coach spoke to the young Panthers about what to expect in the build-up to taking their place on rugby league's greatest stage.
"We're real lucky to have someone like 'Gus' just then talking to the boys about what grand final week is like and the distractions that surround it," Ciraldo told NRL.com.
"We'll try and keep it as normal as possible for the boys but we know it's going to take a better performance than what we showed tonight to come up trumps next week.
"He just said to keep doing what we're doing. Don't get distracted by things that happen in grand final week.
"All the people that want to talk to you and get your attention in grand final week, let's just stick to what we've been doing because it's been working for us and just enjoy it.
"Gus is in at the club every day so they see him around all the time, it's not just like he pops in every now and then. He's there all the time and for me as a coach he's there anytime I ask his advice.
"He's just a real asset for the club and especially around this sort of time. This is my first time doing this so his experience is invaluable."
Although the Warriors were riding the momentum of two sudden-death finals victories and scored the opening points of the night, the Panthers team that had been dominant all season found their groove and dictated the terms of play.
They forced repeat sets and the Warriors into errors with a dominance of territory and possession and turned a 14-4 half-time lead into a 50-16 victory over a Warriors team that struggled to keep pace.
"I just thought the way we played in the first half, we controlled the ball well, we stuck to our game-plan and they were probably fatiguing a bit there in the second half due to the amount of possession we had," Ciraldo said.
"We had to do the travel with [the preliminary final] which we don't normally do, coming up the day before so a little bit different preparation-wise but they did the same training, everything was pretty much the same as what we do every other game.
"They prepared really well and deserved the result tonight."