Penrith Panthers ready to defy history to reach Grand Final

IPenrith insist their shot at grand final redemption remains very much alive despite needing to defy 11 seasons of finals history to return to the decider.

The Panthers were given a timely boost on Sunday, with Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin both avoiding charges after being penalised for crusher tackles, while Viliame Kikau escaped a ban, able to accept a $2150 fine for dangerous contact.

But the ramifications of Saturday night's shock 16-10 qualifying final loss to South Sydney are significant.

The Panthers must now get past either Newcastle or Parramatta in a semi-final on Saturday and they've been thrust on course to face defending champions and minor premiers Melbourne in the preliminary finals.

In the 11 seasons the NRL has used the current finals system, no team has ever recovered from losing in the opening week to beating the minor premiers in week three.

That includes 1995 and 1996, as well as the nine seasons the system has been in use since 2012.

But with that task now awaiting the Panthers, captain Nathan Cleary insisted his team retains strong belief.

Penrith's loss to South Sydney was their first defeat this season when at full strength and the first with Cleary at the helm.

Cleary said they would lean on the big game experience of their core group of players who won at State of Origin level together for NSW this year

"We have full belief in each other as a group," Cleary said.

"We'll fine tune a couple of things.

"You obviously never like to lose, but we are lucky we earned ourselves a second chance.

"We're just going to have to do it the hard way now, leave no stone unturned and just have no regrets as a group."

The Panthers' task is also made harder by travel, with a trip to Mackay to now follow last week's fly-in, fly-out game in Townsville.

Melbourne will meanwhile remain on the Sunshine Coast, and will have not left the area for three weeks before the preliminary final which will be at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

But there are some positives for Penrith.

Officials are hopeful hard-running prop Moses Leota will have recovered from a calf strain to come back into a pack that is already missing Scott Sorenson.

Fullback Dylan Edwards is also expected to return from a minor foot injury, after Stephen Crichton was forced to move from wing to fullback for the South Sydney match.

"I thought Critta was unbelievable. He was very brave, every time he brought the ball back you could tell he put so much work in," Cleary said.

"But you obviously miss someone like Dyl. I think his value to the team is very much overlooked outside our team.

"He is very valued and hopefully we will get him back."