To'o set to boost Penrith in GF re-match

Penrith are set to welcome back Brian To'o for their NRL preliminary final against Melbourne.
Penrith are set to welcome back Brian To'o for their NRL preliminary final against Melbourne.

The return of Brian To'o has bolstered a Penrith outfit looking for a fast start and "retribution" against Melbourne in Saturday's NRL preliminary final in Brisbane.

Criticised for their lack of finals try scoring punch, the Panthers are backing themselves to match the Storm in their grand final re-match with NSW flyer To'o set to overcome an ankle complaint.

Panthers bench enforcer Viliame Kikau was sidelined for Monday's recovery session at the Sunshine Coast but is poised to defy a knee gash and run out against their 2020 grand final conquerors.

There will be at least one enforced change with back-up hooker Mitch Kenny considered no chance of overcoming an ankle injury suffered in their 8-6 semi-final win over Parramatta.

Tyrone May is poised to replace Kenny as bench utility for a Penrith outfit that is still smarting from their 26-20 grand final loss to Melbourne last year.

"We are trying to get some retribution after last year, to try and turn that around," Panthers forward Liam Martin said.

"We missed a good opportunity last year. We hope to make up for it."

Penrith finished with a wet sail in last year's decider but were left to rue a 22-0 halftime deficit.

Asked what lesson they learned from the 2020 decider, Martin said: "That you can't start slow.

"They got out to a solid lead and when you let a team like Melbourne do that, it's very hard to chase them down.

"This week we are going to have to start fast."

Penrith believe the return of To'o would help them achieve that goal, rejuvenating a Panthers attack that has only registered two tries in their two finals games.

To'o missed the Eels clash and was on light duties on Monday but was expected to take on the Storm.

"Everyone knows what an impact and belief he brings to the team," Penrith forward Scott Sorensen said of To'o.

"His running metres are amazing but there are so many things off the ball that he does that we love - he will be ready to go (against Melbourne)."

Tipped to meet again in this year's grand final before Penrith's qualifying final stumble against South Sydney, Martin said a win over the defending champions would be just as sweet in a preliminary final.

"We thought we would have to play them at some stage to win it, whether it is in the preliminary or grand final I don't think it really makes a difference," he said.

The teams are 1-1 in regular season action but Panthers speedster Stephen Crichton said a finals clash with Melbourne had been the game they had been preparing for all year.

"After the grand final the boys have been preparing all year up until now so our systems can hold up in the big dance and big games like this," he said.

Australian Associated Press