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Ivan Cleary says the adversity Penrith have faced this season has made them a stronger team as they prepare for another assault on the NRL title.
The Panthers are set to field their strongest team in months against the Wests Tigers on Sunday as last year's grand finalists build towards premiership redemption.
NSW Origin winger Brian To'o will make his return from syndesmosis surgery while barnstorming prop James Fisher-Harris is also set to start in his first game in a month.
Star halfback Nathan Cleary is three weeks into his return from a shoulder injury, and all the while the Panthers have managed to hold onto second place with three losses in 10 games while undermanned.
"It's good timing, that's for sure," Cleary said of getting his side back together with two games until finals.
"Last year we had a stable season where we were in pretty good form for most of the year. We didn't have Origin to deal with mid-year.
"This year we obviously had Origin. We had a lot of guys in there, a lot of guys playing for the first time as well, a lot of injuries and then moving up to Queensland as well.
"I feel like it's been good for us to do that, to deal with some adversity and challenges, changing our team around.
"While our form hasn't always been great we've been able to win most of our games."
While the Panthers are on the climb, the Tigers are heading in the opposite direction.
Now out of contention for the finals for the 10th season in a row, the Tigers copped another blow that could interrupt the start of 2022 with Adam Doueihi set for ACL surgery.
The club is trying to get the 23-year-old in for surgery in Sydney, although all non-emergency procedures have been paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Coach Michael Maguire is confident, however, that once Doueihi goes under the knife his recovery will be quick.
"We've got to get him into the operation first, which I think that's the first thing the doctors are dealing with this week," he said.
"It can be a seven month to nine-month turnaround, but knowing Adam the way he trains and how he goes about his training, it would be the lesser time.
"That would be around round four, we'll see if we can shorten that up."