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Raiders clash could dictate whether Cleary rests players

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary hasn't ruled out the prospect of resting players in the coming weeks, as the coaching staff holds preliminary discussions around managing a youthful side riding on wins and energy.

Penrith's first-place positioning on the ladder is relatively new territory for Cleary, with only a preliminary final finish in 2014 similar to where the club finds themselves now.

Having to juggle players' training and match loads has gone to another level this year with no byes scheduled for clubs in the 24-week competition.

Heavyweights Melbourne have already begun resting players this week with Ryan Papenhuyzen and Dale Finucane sidelined.

The Roosters have also rested their star players in the past but given their recent injury toll may not be afforded a similar luxury this season.

Penrith have injury concerns of their own with five top-line players – Dylan Edwards, Dean Whare, Brian To'o, Kurt Capewell and Charlie Staines – currently sidelined.

On the plus side all are due back before the finals.

"We've had some preliminary discussions and thoughts [around resting] but nothing concrete at all as it's too far away," Cleary said ahead of the Raiders clash.

Panthers v Raiders - Round 13

"We're not getting ahead our ourselves but we have put ourselves in a position where we can make a few plans around what may or may not happen.

"I think overall they're holding up pretty well but it makes such a difference when you're winning.

"You've got to be careful though because there's such a big attrition rate in the opposition this year that you need to manage your roster week-to-week depending on who's available."

The Panthers will be looking to equal a club record eight victories in a row against the Raiders on Saturday night and claim another 2019 top-four scalp in doing so.

During the Panthers' last premiership-winning season in 2003, the squad strung together three comprehensive winning streaks that lasted eight, five and seven weeks during the season.

A win over the Raiders would add to victories over the Storm, Roosters and Rabbitohs this season.

"Last week was a good performance [against Manly] no doubt, but there's always things to improve on – a couple of tries we let in that were stoppable," Cleary said.

"We don't have to think too hard and wake up every day wondering where we'll finish but there's more important things at the moment.

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"Each game is different and a big challenge [against Canberra]. We've certainly discussed when you're in good form you want to keep it up.

"The Raiders are a very good team. Like most teams, they've had injury issues as well. When you're changing players with combinations and that sort of thing it can take a while to keep going.

"Their game against the Roosters was arguably the best of the season. We're under no illusions around what tomorrow's challenge will be like."

In-form Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris will play his 100th NRL game for the club.

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