With their third minor premiership in four years secured, the Panthers get down to the business of becoming the first team since Parramatta in 1981-82-83 to win three titles in a row.
The Panthers could scarcely have been more impressive in their round 27 demolition of the Cowboys and they head into the finals series brimming with confidence and self-belief.
The absence of Jarome Luai had the potential to throw the premiers off kilter but as they have done for the past four seasons they seamlessly slotted in a replacement player in Jack Cogger and barely skipped a beat.
In stark contrast the One New Zealand Warriors rested a host of stars and were outplayed by the Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium, halting the momentum they had built up in a seven-game winning streak.
Playing their first finals match in five years, the Warriors will fancy their chances of an upset, but they have to reverse a worrying trend that has seen them lose their last seven games against Penrith.
With the weight of history and a boisterous BlueBet Stadium against them, Andrew Webster's men will need dig deep if they are to throw the Panthers juggernaut off the rails.
A week off and another chance to rest weary bodies is the prize for the winner of a fascinating contest that will reveal much about the premiership aspirations of the two combatants.
Match: Panthers v Warriors
Finals Week 1 -
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Warriors is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Sunia TuruvaWinger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Warriors is number 3 Rocco Berry
Centre for Panthers is number 21 Luke GarnerCentre for Warriors is number 4 Adam Pompey
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo Montoya
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jack CoggerFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 14 Dylan Walker
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Warriors is number 6 Te Maire Martin
Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses LeotaProp for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitch KennyHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Warriors is number 10 Mitchell Barnett
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Scott Sorensen2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Jackson Ford
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Marata Niukore
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu Harris
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone PeacheyInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Lindsay SmithInterchange for Warriors is number 16 Bayley Sironen
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Spencer LeniuInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Josh Curran
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Zac HoskingInterchange for Warriors is number 18 Freddy Lussick
Replacement for Panthers is number 18 Jaeman SalmonReplacement for Warriors is number 20 Taine Tuaupiki
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
Penrith Panthers: Izack Tago comes out of the side 24 hours before kick-off due to a pectoral injury suffered at training. Tyrone Peachey moves to the centres with Jaeman Salmon joining the bench. Hooker Mitch Kenny (leg) and back-rower Scott Sorensen (leg) are back on deck but Jarome Luai (shoulder) remains sidelined. Jack Cogger will again wear the No.6 jersey on the back of three try assists and three line break assists in the win over the Cowboys. Luke Garner is 18th Man.
One New Zealand Warriors: Shaun Johnson has been ruled out after suffering a calf injury at training during the week. The club said on Thursday night that they expect the 32-year-old to be available for their next game, which will either be a preliminary final in two weeks or a sudden-death clash in Finals Week Two. Dylan Walker comes into the starting side at five-eighth and Te Maire Martin moves to halfback. Bunty Afoa has joined the bench. Skipper Tohu Harris (back spasms) and interchange forward Jazz Tevaga (hamstring) meanwhile are both good to go.
- The last time the One New Zealand Warriors played a final was 2018, when they were knocked out by the Panthers in a 27-12 defeat at ANZ Stadium.
- The One New Zealand Warriors have not won a finals match since 2011.
- Panthers winger Brian To’o has scored 12 tries in 10 games at BlueBet Stadium in 2023.
- The Panthers have won their past seven games against the One New Zealand Warriors.
- One New Zealand Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has scored 19 tries in his past 13 games. He requires two tries in Saturday’s qualifying final to equal the Warriors’ record for most tries in a season, held by Francis Meli (2003) and David Fusitu’a (2018) with 23.
- The Panthers have won their past six finals matches.
Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.