Premiership-winner Petero Civoniceva is expecting Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris to be the difference in an underrated forward battle in Sunday's Telstra Premiership grand final.
Civoniceva, who spent four seasons at the Panthers during his 15-year career, has marvelled at the work rate a modern-day middle forward gets through as the speed of the game increased in 2021.
The Panthers' pack has been hit by the withdrawal of Tevita Pangai jnr due to a knee injury but the team is expected to be boosted by Moses Leota, who has been dealing with a calf issue.
South Sydney's starting props Mark Nicholls and Junior Tatola have been enormous this season with their performances often overshadowed by the bigger names at the club.
"We've got some quality props playing in this grand final, they're all exceptional in their own ways," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"The way the middle forwards are developing these days as big, mobile and fast. They can play big minutes and can perform well under fatigue.
"James Fisher-Harris is a favourite of mine, he plays with so much aggression and his go-forward is consistent. I think he's been tremendous for a number of seasons and is the key on Sunday.
"Seeing Payne Haas receive prop of the year alongside Fisher-Harris, it was also a great sign for the Broncos. They're the new age of front-rowers and players you build your forward pack around."
NRL Fan Fest: Who will win the grand final?
Civoniceva made no secret his tip was with the Panthers in the decider but expected his old coach Wayne Bennett to have the Rabbitohs primed for another upset.
"From my memories of working under Wayne in '98 and '06, he tried to simplify things rather than overcomplicate it in grand final week," Civoniceva said.
"It's about doing the little things right. He's got an amazing talent of preparing guys for those big matches.
"That will be the focus this week, talk about the game itself rather than the hype around it.
"I think Penrith are battle-hardened after having a tough run in.
"The fact they're only 80 minutes away of turning last year's disappointment into something special I think they've got the team to do it.
"No doubt Wayne will have Souths steeled for victory, but I think the Panthers will get home in a close one."
Former Panther turned commentator Scott Sattler, who hails from south-east Queensland, was relishing the chance to witness the decider with his family having a close affiliation with both clubs.
"I always figured it would work out this way," Sattler said.
"I thought Penrith would be there in some capacity and Wayne coaching Souths and with Adam Reynolds… I thought the planets were aligning for them as well.
"I think Penrith are coming in as deserved favourites given their defensive efforts this year and throughout the finals but it really is going to be a close one.
"I'm getting goosebumps thinking about what Sunday is going to be like."
History beckons for Panthers and Rabbitohs in dream matchup
Sattler, who won a memorable premiership with the Panthers in 2003, will be commentating on the match for SEN while his old man, former Rabbitohs great John Sattler, is watching from home.
"Dad's just really excited Souths haven't had to wait another 40 years to play in a grand final," he said.
"He doesn't go outside much these days but I'm sure he'll sit back and enjoy it and let me know of the result if Souths get the win.
"He's a huge fan of Wayne's and what he's done for the club. Whenever I played against Souths I was always really welcomed by the fans because of Dad and the history as well.
"South Sydney were the club I supported as a boy and the only team I could remember in my earliest times. I win and lose either way.
"Both my favourite teams are playing in a grand final, you couldn't script it any better."