Jack Cogger believes his experience of playing big matches in the Super League will hold him in good stead as he and Nathan Cleary build a combination on the run for this year's finals series.
Cogger, who joined the Panthers as a back-up playmaker to Cleary and injured five-eighth Jarome Luai, played a big role in the side’s minor premiership win over the Cowboys on Saturday night.
The 26-year-old will re-join junior club Newcastle in 2024 but for now has a job to do alongside Cleary as the side waits on the return of Luai from a dislocated shoulder it is hoped by the preliminary finals.
Cogger helped guide Super League club Huddersfield to a Challenge Cup final in 2022 and ahead of his first NRL finals match against the Warriors on Friday night said he felt calm about the situation.
“It's exciting, I wanted to get through tonight and make sure it was a really good performance so we could be confident going into next week,” Cogger said.
“And I think we will be. We still have plenty to work on, I thought we were clunky in a few areas so we'll be better for the run.
“I am confident going into next week, but I hope tonight's performance gives my teammates confidence in me.”
The Penrith Panthers are the 2023 Minor Premiers
Cogger and Cleary’s combination appeared seamless in their second halves game together with Cogger producing three try assists to start the match while the pair roamed both sides of the field.
“There were a few changes… not massive changes, because ‘Romey’ will be back in a few weeks," Cogger said of his partnership with Cleary.
“But there were a few subtle changes tonight of things we worked on that maybe we didn't have in previous weeks.
“Maybe a little bit [more focus as a combination], because we knew we would probably be together for the next two weeks.
“So we just looked at ways that suit both our games and will work best for the team.
“There was still a bit to work on, but overall there were some really good take-aways. I am sure we will be better for the run next week.”
Although Cogger's brief stint at the Panthers is coming to an end, he believed the club had taught him enough of the mental aspect of the game this year to handle the pressure in the finals.
"I'm a pretty calm person, we do all the physical training, but we work on the mental side of it," he said.
"I have been working on that, and that is probably what has helped take my game to the next level.
"That's not just for this finals week, we have been doing it since November last year. It's not just how we train on the field, but on the inside as well."
Match: Panthers v Cowboys
Round 27 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith