80 minutes of teamwork is standing in the way of Penrith and their first Grand Final appearance in 17 years, according to Panthers back-rower Kurt Capewell.
The 27-year-old, who has played in two Preliminary Finals with the Cronulla Sharks, believes his side will be celebrating on Saturday night if “teamwork” becomes the key ingredient.
“We’ve got a really good group of blokes; we all get along unbelievably well. I think teamwork and playing the full 80 minutes is what will win it for us,” he said.
After spending much of the season on the sideline with injury, Capewell will be thrust into the spotlight in a big way on Saturday night, filling the huge boots left behind by none other than Viliame Kikau.
With the Fijian powerhouse serving a one-match suspension for a Dangerous Throw, Capewell has had the last fortnight to prepare himself for the enormous task at hand. While he admits he doesn’t offer the barnstorming runs and sheer brilliance that Kikau does in attack, he said he will be able to strengthen Penrith’s shaky left side defence.
“I might not offer as much attacking-wise as Kiks, but I’ll be able to help out Romie (Jarome Luai) in defence,” he said.
“I’m confident we will still perform well without Kiks, he is a big loss for us but having that weekend off and that extra week to prepare has definitely helped me.”
While Capewell has tasted both Preliminary Final victory and defeat, he’s yet to experience an NRL decider after his previous club, Cronulla, left him out of their 2016 Grand Final team.
The Queenslander said it will be a “dream come true” to play next Sunday night at ANZ Stadium, but his side will need to get past the toughest, most unpredictable game of the year first.
“Anything can happen in Prelim Finals, it’s do-or-die, so every team’s willing to throw the ball around if they’re chasing points and that’s when some teams are at their most dangerous,” he said.
“If you prepare well enough and you prepare right, you shouldn’t be too nervous. You just have to trust your preparation and trust that the work you’ve done throughout the week is going to get you through the game.”
Penrith’s opponents, South Sydney, are currently riding the crest of a wave – scoring a whopping 144 points in their last three matches. While the Rabbitohs boast arguably the NRL’s best attack at present, the Panthers ended the regular season with the best defence.
Capewell said if Penrith’s forward pack stand up on Saturday evening, they’ll be popping champagne at full-time.
“I think our forward pack is the best in the comp,” he said.
“If we can stick to our job, complete and do everything right, we’ll go straight through their middle.
“I’m sure if our defence holds up against their attack, then I don’t think they can defend our point scorers.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.