Embarrassed Panthers seek turnaround
Penrith lock Trent Merrin admits the Panthers have gone backwards in their quest for to make back-to-back appearances in the finals for the first time since 2004.
Penrith were simply outplayed by the Rabbitohs on Sunday and now face a tough ask to climb back into the top eight with Western Sydney rivals Parramatta now four competition points above them on the Telstra Premiership ladder in eighth position.
It was a disappointing outing for Anthony Griffin's men who were looking to bounce back following their last-minute loss to the Cowboys in Townsville a week earlier.
"We were embarrassed from the result last week and it's not the standards we set as a team or a club so we've got a big point to prove this weekend," Merrin said on Wednesday.
"It was a bit like quicksand, we couldn't get a grip of it once we lost control. A few penalties let us down and not pointing fingers at anyone, we're to blame for it all."
 Merrin Trent - Panthers
After a sluggish start to the season with two wins in their opening nine games, it is fast-becoming a case of now or never for Griffin's outfit.
"You've always got belief and if you don't then you should just give the game away, we're in a great position to still put our hand up for the top eight," Merrin said.
"We've got all our hopes and dreams still ahead of us. It's been a frustrating year but every season is different and you have to take the good with the bad.
"On the weekend we went back a few steps but I've got full belief in this playing group."
In the Panthers' favour is a friendly draw in the run to the finals, with five of their next six games being played at home.
After five straight games away from the Pepper Stadium, the Panthers will play at their spiritual home venue for the first time since Round 10.
Merrin was adamant though that home ground advantage would mean little if the side didn't turn things around as soon as possible.
"It always helps to play in your own backyard, it's been a while," he said.
"Every game you play is a tough game no matter where a team is on the ladder, it's great to take the games at home but you can't take any teams lightly."
The Panthers are yet to meet Manly in 2017 but will face off this weekend in the first of two encounters before the regular season is over.
Sea Eagles skipper Daly Cherry-Evans is expected to come out firing following Queensland's decision to overlook him for the State of Origin decider.
"He's definitely going to come out with a point to prove but I think across the park there is talent everywhere and then he is the key link," Merrin said.
"They're playing some great footy so we have to bring our A- game."
With NSW skipper Boyd Cordner and back-rower Tyson Frizell in some doubt for the Origin decider on Wednesday, Merrin also put his hand up to come into the Blues side if necessary but was confident the pair would be cleared to play.
NSW coach Laurie Daley called Merrin into the Game Two squad as 18th man when Jack de Belin was suspended.
"If he does [call] I'll be answering it straight away," Merrin laughed.
"I've got full belief in the Blues staff that they'll be doing everything they can to get those guys on the park and my main focus is playing as well as I can for the Panthers in the meantime."