An honest James Maloney accepts Penrith aren't yet premiership contenders despite being on track for the finals.
And the veteran five-eighth says it's not good enough for the eighth-placed Panthers to make the playoffs and then bomb out in the first or second week.
Penrith's stunning seven-match winning streak was snapped by Canberra last round and the 30-18 loss showed Maloney how far off the pacesetters his side remains.
"Are we a premiership threat? At the moment, no. We can be but there's a fair bit of hard work that needs to go in over the next six weeks because you can't just click your fingers and it all happens," Maloney said.
"There's no point getting to the eight and playing semi-finals if you’re just there to make up the numbers. No one ever looks back and goes, 'Oh, we made first week of the semis' or 'We made second round of the semis'.
"It's irrelevant. If you're there, you want to be able to play the right footy to actually do something. That's the challenge for us over the next six weeks."
So what do the Panthers need to fix to become a competition heavyweight?
"We can start by stopping leaking easy points," Maloney said. "We're not going to win too many semi-finals leaking 30 points."
Match: Bulldogs v Panthers
Round 20 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
First up on the path to the post-season is a tussle with Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night that seems an easy victory on paper.
But Maloney insisted the Panthers can't undervalue the Bulldogs, who are 15th and locked in a battle with the Titans to avoid the wooden spoon.
"I don't think we're in a position to be looking at where a side's coming and trying to take them easy," the NSW Origin playmaker said.
Former Panthers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Corey Harawira-Naera will play their old team for the first time and Maloney is tipping the pair to be pumped up.
"No doubt they'll be looking to play well. I've done it a million times myself coming up against old clubs. Everyone wants a little bit of bragging rights against some old mates," he said.
A third premiership for Maloney would cap off an NRL journey defined by success, with the 33-year-old to join Catalans Dragons in the UK Super League next year.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary thinks Maloney will lift in the remaining rounds having finalised his future.
Bulldogs v Panthers - Round 20
"I'd imagine it would definitely be a load off his shoulders. Even to get through last week's game with the conjecture and media around [his announcement]," Cleary said.
"He can put his head down and concentrate on doing his job for the Panthers which I'm sure he will."
Others might be feeling nostalgic as Maloney's storied career in Australia draws to a close but the larrikin hasn't been caught up in the emotion so far.
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"I thought, 'Oh, I'm just moving to another place again like I have a million times before but this time it's going to a different competition'," Maloney, who has played for five NRL clubs, said.
"So I haven't really thought about it as it's all ending. It's more just moving on."
Cleary said his troops have enough incentive to perform without using Maloney's farewell as motivation.
"It's all about the team. We want to give everyone a good finish to the season," Cleary said.