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Wesser The Key In Panthers
Once flashy entertainers themselves, Brisbane risk elimination from the finals by one of the most potent sets of outside backs in National Rugby League history.
A key factor in Penrith's triumphant surge to the minor premiership has been the try-scoring feats of fullback Rhys Wesser, winger Luke Rooney and winger/centre Luke Lewis.
While Wesser hogged the limelight with a fullback record 24 tries to lead the competition, the two Lukes were also high on the standings with 15 each.
The 54 tries the trio scored between them was almost half of Penrith's total number.
They have set Penrith alight with their exploits and drawn more fans to the Panthers' games than ever before.
But Penrith coach John Lang said there was no masterplan to focus the bulk of Penrith's attack through Wesser, Lewis and Rooney.
"Not really, I mean you try and attack the whole field if you can ... pressure them all round the ground," Lang said.
Lang has a high opinion of all three of his fliers.
"Luke Rooney is your classic finishing winger," he said.
"Luke Lewis is equally at home in the centres - he's played most of the year in the centres, and he may well end up as a centre."
Wesser earned special praise from Lang.
"Rhys is a bit of a phenomenon," he said.
"He does it (scoring tries) every year, it's nothing new for him.
"And I think the year before he scored something like 10 tries in 12 games when they got the wooden spoon."
Statistics in this week's Rugby League Week magazine show the closest back three to Wesser, Lewis and Rooney in recent years has been Newcastle's 2000 trio of Adam MacDougall, Timana Tahu and Lenny Beckett who bagged a combined 48 tries.
On Sunday Penrith will meet Brisbane, a team that was once renowned for its brilliant outside backs, with the likes of Steve Renouf, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Darren Lockyer.
The loss of both Sailor and Tuqiri to rugby union was a big blow to its ability to maintain that style, although the threat from fullback Lockyer remains.
Lang said he has long admired Brisbane.
"I really enjoyed watching Brisbane play five or six years ago, they probably influenced the way I coached a little bit," he said.
"They are always ready to attack from any part of the field."