Panthers coach Ivan Cleary says the club's effort to secure their first minor premiership in 17 years is no mean feat but understands the finals is a "new competition" the side will have a fortnight to prepare for.
The Panthers claimed the J.J. Giltinan shield following a dominant 32-12 victory over the Cowboys in Townsville on Friday night, a week earlier than their final game of the regular season against the Bulldogs.
The Panthers piled on four first-half tries on their way to a 14th straight win with Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai crossing to hand the visitors a 20-0 lead.
"We didn't care how the win came today, there was a lot riding on it," Cleary said.
"We certainly value [the minor premiership]. In the football world it's considered the major premiership – testament to who is the most consistent team is the comp.
Match: Cowboys v Panthers
Round 19 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
"If you look at the past winners over the last seven years it's the Roosters and Storm.
"For us to be in that company it's something we're really proud of. It's no mean feat."
Viliame Kikau wreaked havoc on his former club as the left edge fired to spoil Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper's final home game.
The Fijian international was placed on report for a high tackle on Valentine Holmes in the only concern for Cleary leading into next week's final-round clash against Canterbury.
Edwards gets a kick away in traffic for To'o
"I was happy with the first half but the second half I think we got distracted and we played that way," Cleary said.
"I think we had one foot on the plane once it got to 26-0."
Penrith rested experienced trio James Tamou, Api Koroisau and Zane Tetevano for the trip to Townsville and Cleary could rest more ahead of the final round.
The Cowboys welcomed back Jason Taumalolo from a calf injury but the Tongan international's return was let down by a 65 per cent completion rate from Josh Hannay's men.
The points continued four minutes into the second half with Nathan Cleary placing a pin-point kick for Kikau to out-leap a measly defensive contest in the air to fall over the line.
Cowboys livewire Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow got the home side on the board with 19 minutes remaining, but the Panthers accelerated to regain a 26-point advantage shortly after.
Edwards was at his roaming best before leaving the field with a minor knee complaint, allowing fans to see Crichton shift to fullback.
Cleary and Crichton combine to lay it on for Naden
The Rookie of the Year nominee didn't take long to link with Cleary on the right edge – the Panthers halfback sending Brent Naden over the line on the right edge.
"I think in terms of our confidence it's pretty high," Cleary said.
"Once the finals come it's a new competition but what we've done is forged some belief in ourselves and given us a good chance leading into the finals with the first game at home.
"But it's a new competition and we'll have to treat it that way."
The Cowboys jagged a try through Feldt in the dying stages but it was all too little too late.
Crichton takes the kick and offloads to Luai