Penrith Intrust Super Premiership skipper Zach Dockar-Clay will lead his side into finals football this weekend having survived the Panthers' playmaker curse this season.
Dockar-Clay has been one of few constants for the Panthers' reserve grade team this season having farewelled Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro along the way.
Season-ending injuries to utility Will Smith (ACL) and Andrew Heffernan (collarbone) followed Te Maire Martin's well-documented shoulder concern.
"It's been frustrating a little bit but you have to cope with what comes your way. Jamie Soward was really good for me actually," Dockar-Clay told NRL.com.
"That's when my form and game started picking up a bit I think, when he was leading the boys around. It allowed me to play off the back of his leadership. So it was really good to play alongside him in the halves."
The Panthers' 36-24 win over the fifth-placed Warriors last weekend clinched them a last-ditch finals spot after Wentworthville failed to topple minor premiers Mounties to ensure their place in the top eight.
Penrith will now have to head across to New Zealand for the second-straight week to face the Warriors in an elimination final led by Dockar-Clay and the fit-again Martin.
The former Junior Kiwis halves will be looking to translate their partnership into further season success in their maiden year at Penrith despite veteran Jeremy Latimore's promotion following Reagan Campbell-Gillard's season-ending back injury.
"To play with somebody who has [Martin's] sort of skill is incredible. We already knew each other's game before we arrived at the Panthers this year to an extent," ex-Eel Dockar-Clay said.
"Then we had the pre-season and played at the Auckland Nines together so to be in the semis now with him, it's been a great year for 'Tee' and I."
"Our confidence in getting a win over them last week and being able to grind them out was pretty good," Dockar-Clay said of the Warriors, who have named James Gavet to play.
"We'll take plenty of confidence into this week's game but it'll be pretty tough."
Dockar-Clay also admitted his surprise over being bestowed the captaincy by coach Steve Georgallis at the beginning of the year.
"I was happy to receive it because I'm more than happy to take a leadership role on board," the 21-year-old said.
"We have a young side who are mostly fresh out of the 20s so that's made the role enjoyable. I'm hoping to take the boys all the way."
Intrust Super Premiership Finals Week One fixtures
Illawarra Cutters (2nd) v Wests Tigers (3rd) at UOW Jubilee Oval, Saturday September 3, 12:40pm.
Mounties (1st) v Newtown Jets (4th) at Pepper Stadium, Saturday September 3, 1pm.
Wyong Roos (6th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7th) at Pepper Stadium, Saturday September 3, 3pm.
New Zealand Warriors (5th) v Penrith Panthers (8th) at Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday September 4, 1:35pm.