It's a case of so near yet so far for both of these teams, with the finals just out of reach for 2019.
The Panthers fell short of emulating last year's finals finish, while the Knights failed to live up to expectations after being widely touted as top eight certainties when the season kicked off.
They enter Sunday's season-closing clash on the same number of points (22) and are basically playing for bragging rights and little else.
Panthers veteran James Maloney will be playing his final NRL game before heading to the UK Super League.
Match: Panthers v Knights
Round 25 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Panthers: Jarome Luai has been promoted to start at centres in place of Brent Naden after being named on the bench. Hame Sele was the other match-day omission. Josh Mansour and Kaide Ellis were cut from the reserves on Saturday. Wayde Egan will start at hooker, with Sione Katoa dropped to the reserves and . James Maloney is playing the final game of his NRL career.
Knights: Jamie Buhrer and Jirah Momoisea were Newcastle's final cuts an hour out from kick-off. Shaun Kenny-Dowall is out, replaced on the wing by Stanford To'A, while Josh King comes off the bench to take Tim Glasby's place at lock. Jacob Saifiti has been elevated from the reserves to the bench. Lachlan Fitzgibbon returns to the starting side, with Aidan Guerra shifting to the bench.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Stephen CrichtonWinger for Knights is number 2 Bradman Best
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean WhareCentre for Knights is number 3 Sione Mata'utia
Centre for Panthers is number 14 Jarome LuaiCentre for Knights is number 4 Hymel Hunt
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Knights is number 21 Starford To'a
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James MaloneyFive-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Mason Lino
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Knights is number 9 Connor Watson
Prop for Panthers is number 10 Moses LeotaProp for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett
Lock for Panthers is number 13 James Fisher-HarrisLock for Knights is number 16 Josh King
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Knights is number 14 Kurt Mann
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Billy BurnsInterchange for Knights is number 15 Herman Ese'ese
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Knights is number 17 Aidan Guerra
Interchange for Panthers is number 18 Sione KatoaInterchange for Knights is number 18 Jacob Saifiti
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Referee: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Video Referee: Bryan Norrie
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
They won a premiership together with the Roosters in 2013 and had many battles as opponents. On Sunday James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce will go head to head one last time and their respective contributions will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of their last hurrah.
For the Panthers to win
Maloney will be pumped for a big game and his teammates should be hungry to send him out with a bang. Nathan Cleary needs to deliver after some ordinary performances lately, while the Panthers have to get their defence right against the likes of Pearce and Kalyn Ponga.
For the Knights to win
Mitchell Pearce leads the NRL in linebreak assists (17) and he'll have to be at his creative best in Sunday's season finale. Ponga has to step up and answer his critics who say he hasn't lived up to the hype, while Dave Klemmer and his fellow forwards need to lay a solid platform up front.
Brett Kimmorley says
I think Penrith have got to win this game. It will be James Maloney’s farewell from the NRL and that should mean a lot. Ivan Cleary’s had his hands on this team for long enough and you’d think they will have enough. For the Knights under Kristian Woolf maybe a different voice is as good as a holiday. They played a good brand of football last week but we’ll see if they can do it again. Panthers by 4
James Maloney shares the lead with Canberra's Aidan Sezer for most field goals (4) this season. Maloney was the outright leader before Sezer kicked a remarkable three field goals last week against the Sharks. On the downside, Maloney has missed more tackles (117) and conceded more penalties (26) than any NRL player in 2019.
And another thing ...
James Maloney draws the curtain on an excellent NRL career on Sunday. He debuted with the Storm in 2009 and spent time with the Warriors, Roosters and Sharks before finishing up with the Panthers. The 33-year-old playmaker played in three grand finals, winning premierships with the Roosters and Sharks. He represented NSW and Australia, winning two State of Origin series.