Cogger ready for NRL finals furnace as Penrith No.6

Stand-in Penrith five-eighth Jack Cogger has declared he will not be overawed by the pressure of his first NRL finals, ready to lean on big-game experience from his two-year stint in England.

Cogger starred in his first full game in the halves for Penrith since Jarome Luai's injury on Saturday night, setting up the first three tries in the win over North Queensland.

The win lifted the Panthers to a third minor premiership in four years, but the reality is there are bigger fish to fry for the two-time defending premiers.

Next weekend's qualifying final against the Warriors will mark Penrith's first playoff without Luai in the halves alongside Cleary since 2018, before the club's current run of success.

That will leave all eyes on Cogger, who will feature in only his 50th match as a starting player in the NRL.

Despite that, Cogger is more experienced than his game count suggests.

The 26-year-old spent two years in the English Super League, starting in the Challenge Cup final for Huddersfield last year.

"I got to play in some semi-finals and games like that that I think will benefit me for next week," Cogger said.

"I (took from it) that you just have to play so every play counts in the finals. 

"You just have to be in the moment the whole time. That's what I have worked on at Penrith, and it's helped take my game to another level.

"With this group here, it's not like they haven't done it before in finals. I just have to do a job and slot in."

Cogger said he would therefore have no issue dealing with the hype ahead of the biggest game of his career in Australia.

"I'm a pretty calm person," he said. 

"We do all the physical training here, but we work on the mental side of it. 

I have been working on that all year, and that is probably what helped take my game to the next level."

Luai trained for the first time on Saturday since injuring his shoulder in round 26, and while he will miss the Warriors clash there is every chance he will return for the Panthers' next final.

In the meantime, Cogger's combination with Cleary will be crucial.

Starting together for the second time on Saturday, Cleary ran the ball more often and swung to both sides of the field.

Cogger also set up two tries on the left and one on the right, with Penrith's attack on-song even without hooker Mitch Kenny.

"It was having that freedom to go both ways, because I think that benefits both of us and the team," Cogger said.

"We just looked at ways that suit both our games and will work best for the team. 

"There were a few changes, but not massive ones. Because Romey will be back in a few weeks."

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