A number of Penrith players were rested from NSW Cup duties on Sunday so they'd be fresh for duty if called up to face the Bulldogs, including playmaker Sean O'Sullivan who performed admirably in the first three rounds of the season while Nathan Cleary recovered from shoulder surgery.
The Bulldogs showed plenty of good signs on an emotional day at their spiritual home Belmore but still came up short to remain at the bottom of the table.
When these sides clashed at CommBank Stadium in round five it was the Panthers cruising home 32-12 but without a posse of their big guns they could find the going much tougher this time around.
Panthers: Sean O'Sullivan did a fine job steering the ship early in the season and he'll take charge again in the No.7 with Kurt Falls set to make his NRL debut at five-eighth with Jarome Luai also on Origin duty. Robert Jennings and Charlie Staines join the backline for Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o while Chris Smith and Matt Eisenhuth come in for Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo in the pack. Hooker Api Koroisau was named among the Blues reserves but will be released to play for Penrith. Fullback Dylan Edwards and prop James Fisher-Harris will captain the side. No changes when the squad was trimmed to 19 on Thursday.
Bulldogs: Luke Thompson was ruled out on Thursday suffering from delayed symptoms of concussion. He is replaced in the starting side by Ava Seumanufagai with Joe Stimson joining the bench after originally being left out on Tuesday. Tevita Pangai jnr remains sidelined after missing the Dragons game due to back spasms. Raymond Faitala-Mariner has been promoted to the starting side and Corey Waddell goes to the bench. Josh Addo-Carr could consider himself unlucky to miss Blues selection but his presence is a bonus for interim coach Mick Potter.
James Fisher-Harris v Paul Vaughan: The Panthers enforcer has the honour of captaining his side this week and he'll be ripping in from the opening whistle, setting the standards and driving the undermanned Panthers in their pursuit of another win. While the Panthers' backs take the plaudits for their flashy finishing, it's Fisher-Harris who lays the platform with his fearsome charges that have yielded 142 metres per game in 2022. Vaughan has played every game this season for the Bulldogs, averaging 126 running metres and 31 tackles per game, and he'll look to take the fight to the Panthers. Both men will be up for the contest and both love to get down in the trenches.
In the past four meetings between these clubs the Panthers have piled on 24 tries to the Bulldogs' three. The scoreline across the four matches was 132-16 to the Panthers.
Story first published on NRL.com