Teenage hurt defined Penrith NRL star To'o

·2-min read

Penrith winger Brian To'o knows he'll be playing hurt in Sunday's NRL grand final against South Sydney.

He also knows it won't stop him doing all he can to erase the Panthers' heartache from last year's premiership decider defeat.

To'o's arrival in a wheelchair to the Panthers' media call on Monday may have been tongue-in-cheek but there's no doubt the 23-year-old's left ankle is far from 100 per cent.

The NSW State of Origin player suffered a syndesmosis injury in July and had to undergo surgery.

To'o returned earlier than expected for the round 24 clash against Wests Tigers, scoring a hat-trick the following weekend as the Panthers smashed an undermanned Parramatta in the final round of the regular season.

His ankle ruled him out of the semi-final win over the Eels in Mackay two weeks ago but he was back in the line-up to score a vital try in an upset preliminary final victory over Melbourne in Brisbane last Saturday.

Confounding expectations and proving people wrong is nothing new to To'o, who suffered a major setback as a junior when he missed selection to the Panthers' under-16 squad.

Rather than kicking cans, To'o used the disappointment as motivation and returned the following year in such form he couldn't be ignored by the club's academy.

"That's probably the first time I've kind of felt like I failed and I was actually really happy I failed because it obviously inspired me to keep moving forward," To'o told AAP.

"My parents and my whole family and even my partner always kept encouraging me to never give up and I'm really grateful for that.

"Here I am today, still pushing through and really happy with what the outcome was."

Since successfully forcing his way back into the Panthers' junior set-up, To'o has hardly looked back.

An NRL debut in 2019 has led to 51 first-grade appearances for the Panthers, international honours with Samoa and a winning debut Origin campaign with the Blues this year.

One thing remains unticked, however, an NRL premiership.

Like he did as a teenager, To'o has drawn on the hurt of last year's grand final loss to the Storm to make him more determined to get the job done in 2021.

"We had a little review of the grand final last year at the start of this year," To'o said.

"Obviously it hurt but it kind of fuels the fire and it's good that we harnessed it and turned it into something good.

"That pretty much built the foundation of where we're at today.

"Really happy with how far we've come and who we are today."

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