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Lessons learnt: Panthers a year older but a lot wiser for title tilt

Five-eighth Jarome Luai believes Penrith were guilty of believing they deserved last year's title without "earning" it as they look to go one better and clinch the Telstra Premiership on Sunday.

The pain of losing the 2020 grand final lingers for all who were part of Penrith's campaign but with a possible 13 players likely to return to the grand final fray on Sunday night, Luai is among those desperate to make amends.

Luai cut a dejected figure at Stadium Australia on grand final night last year as Melbourne snatched the trophy after racing to a 26-0 scoreline in the second half.

Along with several other members of last year's squad, Luai spoke on Monday on how much last year's defeat has them primed to turn the result around.

"We didn't start well last year, that's definitely something we want to fix," Luai said.

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"The first 20 minutes we weren't on and that's something we need to change this year.

"It's something we build confidence on when we start well and hopefully we can just ride that wave.

"I don't think anyone deserves it, you've got to earn it and work for it. We've definitely worked hard.

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"We've got to go out and earn that trophy if we want to win. It's different this year, we've had a lot more tougher games this year and closer games.

"It's definitely hardened us and conditioned us for whatever is to come this week. We're just grateful to be part of grand final week again and hopefully we can change the result.

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Panthers co-captain Isaah Yeo said the squad and coaching staff were "definitely better" for their grand final experience.

The Panthers breezed through the regular season with a 17-game winning streak before falling short in the decider.

In 2021, they've had to get to the final week the hard way with a loss in the qualifying final against South Sydney earlier this month.

"I feel we're in a better spot than last year. Not just the grand final itself but getting to that point last year," Yeo said.

"With the bubble last year we couldn't do the normal grand final week. It's different up here with things a bit more open. Ivan wants us to be relaxed and just enjoy it."

Panthers back-rowers Liam Martin and Kurt Capewell have played State of Origin between both grand finals with the pair benefitting from the big-game experience at the representative level.

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"I think it's benefitted myself and the other boys who were apart of it, that big game experience and the nerves, learning to deal with them," Martin said.

"Just stay as calm and present as possible. There's a lot going on so you can get carried away a little bit.

"Last year being my first finals [series] I was pretty nervous going into a few of them. This year I know what to expect and the standards you have to play at.

"Probably the intensity the footy has to be played at."

Capewell, who will depart the club for the Broncos following Sunday's game, added the growth in the squad had come a long way since the disappointing result on October 25.

"You can't take too much away from it because yeah we didn't have our best game last year but there's been so many games since then," he said.

"We've grown so much since. It's a driving factor for a few of the boys but it's one of those things, you can't change what happened."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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