Short of rewinding time and having a second crack at Melbourne in the grand final, a Penrith victory on Thursday night is worth nothing more than two competition points to Ivan Cleary.
The Panthers coach knows beating the premiers at BlueBet Stadium will not ease the pain of losing last year’s premiership, even if it’s billed as a grand-final rematch.
For him it’s a chance to test young half Matt Burton in place of Nathan Cleary and another game under the belt for hooker Mitch Kenny, as they build towards real redemption at the end of the season.
The Panthers have already started the season on a historic high, being the first side in history not to concede any points in the first two games of the season.
Their wins over North Queensland and Canterbury were convincing, but Cleary wants a big test against the best.
“Unless we go and take their rings off them, there’s not much we can do about that,” Cleary said on Wednesday.
“It’ll probably be a little bit motivating for the boys, it’s just natural.
“It’s more that the Storm are and have been for more than 15 years a benchmark team.
“You always want to play well against the best sides and any chance you get I think you look forward to.”
Without Cameron Smith, Felise Kaufusi and now star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen in the side for Thursday’s rematch, the Storm have made six changes to the team that won the NRL title in October.
Penrith also come into game without six of their grand finalists – including co-captain and halfback Nathan Cleary who has been rested under concussion guidelines.
But for coach Cleary, facing Melbourne has never been about the stars they put on the field as much as the team they make out of their players.
“The Storm have had different players for a number of years, the reason they’re successful club it’s not so much about who the individuals are but how they fit together and perform as a team and they always do that well,” Cleary said.
“The read I’m getting from the Storm is it’s going to be incredibly hard game tomorrow night and a real challenge for us but one we always look forward to.”