Penrith lock Isaah Yeo believes the Panthers will go into the Telstra Premiership finals series more "battle-hardened" than last year with four clashes against title contenders included in their run home.
The Panthers are hopeful of welcoming back five-eighth Jarome Luai from a knee injury for Saturday night's clash against the Broncos but will otherwise expect their livewire to be available for round 20's clash with Melbourne.
While Yeo remained focused on the job at hand – a battle with 15th-place Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium this week – he couldn't help but discuss the side's run home which includes clashes against the Storm, Rabbitohs, Eels and Roosters.
Their challenging finish to the draw will help decide the 2021 minor premiership, an achievement the club earned last year but which didn't lead to a title on grand final day.
"I know we've got a really important end to the draw," Yeo said.
"I think it helps. You want to be playing those teams and be battle-hardened for the semi-finals.
"I think it's good preparation. We've put ourselves in a good position. Melbourne are red hot at the minute.
"They're starting well and blowing teams off the park early. They're the benchmark."
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Yeo said the Panthers' ladder position allowed for the club to be cautious with Nathan Cleary's return from a shoulder injury, which remains up in the air, compared to Luai's known diagnosis with his knee recovery.
Fill-in halves Matt Burton and Tyrone May got the job done against the Warriors last week to record their first win of the season together as a combination and the duo will be on standby again if Luai can't get through training this week.
"We need to be a lot better than what we were against the Warriors," Yeo said.
"I thought it was the best Burto and T-May attacked all year but defensively we were off.
"We weren't very convincing. I think [Brisbane] are definitely a team on the improve.
"How they played against us earlier in the year they really pushed us.
"You'd like to think everyone, not just Penrith but the whole competition, will be better for the week."
Meanwhile, Yeo poured cold water over reports Broncos forward Tevita Pangai jnr was bound for the Panthers in a mid-season switch this year.
Pangai jnr is expected to link with the Bulldogs on a three-year deal from 2022 but suggestions the Panthers would land the Tongan international on a short-term contract were hosed down on Tuesday.
It's understood the Panthers showed an interest in his services last month but the club had limited salary cap money to fit him in this season.
"It's funny how it all changes in the space of half an hour," Yeo said.
"If that was the case we would've welcomed him with open arms."