Ivan Cleary wasn't thinking 12 months in advance in September last season but the experience of starting in big games at hooker now looks like genius preparation for Panthers hooker Mitch Kenny.
Cleary used Kenny in last year's finals series in a starting role with former hooker Api Koroisau giving the side some much-needed creativity after the 20-minute mark of games.
That formula has also been working for opposite number Harry Grant ahead of Friday night's preliminary final, with the Storm winning all three games when he comes off the bench.
"I’ve been on the other side of that coin and it makes him more dangerous like Api was for us," Kenny told NRL.com of Grant's move.
"There will be alarm bells when he comes on the field. He’s a massive part of their attack and line speed in defence.
"It’s probably one of the most daunting parts of the game, the opening exchanges and first 20 minutes.
"Knowing I’ve done that and can do that is nice and gives me some confidence.
"Ivan obviously didn’t set out to do that last year for me now but this time around it’s good given I’ve played a lot longer and consistent footy."
Kenny v Kennar
Kenny conceded the task of replacing Koroisau early didn't get off to the best start but with further time he's been able to build his game around star-studded halves Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary.
"I always felt like I could do a job once Api left but I also knew it would take a bit of time which it did," he said.
"It was a matter of getting experience, building combinations and connections. Once you do that you get more confidence.
"It took me a while. This team wasn’t playing well and I wasn’t playing well. We were losing close games but we knew if we could fix a few things that it would come and it has."
The Panthers and Storm have built up a nice rivalry since the 2020 decider with the pain of losing on the NRL's biggest stage enough to keep the side motivated for years to come.
"They taught us some harsh and valuable lessons in that grand final," Kenny said.
"It’s been the catalyst for some big changes in this group. Since then we’ve always had some good battles with them.
"They’re a much-respected opponent of ours and they bring the best out of us and I think we bring the best out in them so I’m sure there will be some fireworks on Friday night."
Match: Panthers v Storm
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney