SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Tyrone May, Nathan Cleary and Daine Laurie of the Panthers celebrate after winning the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks at Panthers Stadium on August 21, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Tyrone May, Nathan Cleary and Daine Laurie of the Panthers celebrate after winning the round 15 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks at Panthers Stadium on August 21, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

FULL DEBUT: Laurie set to start for premiership Panthers

JUST seven weeks after his NRL debut, Iluka’s Daine Laurie is set for his first start with the Penrith Panthers in a round 20 clash against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Saturday.

Wrapping up the minor premiership a week before finals, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary brought in a raft changes with a number of youngsters set to play a key part.

Starting at his preferred role in the fullback position, Laurie comes in for regular starter Dylan Edwards who, along with Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau, will be rested to overcome some minor niggles ahead of the finals.

“I’m heaps excited. Playing first grade footy has been a dream of mine and to play a full 80 minutes is going to be unreal,” Laurie said.

Making his debut against the Canberra Raiders back in round 13 and being in the 17 the next two rounds, Laurie has since been left out of the match day squad as a number of key players returned from injury, but was quietly hoping coach Cleary would look to rest players in round 20.

“It’s good that in the last game of the season all the boys that haven’t played will get their chance. We had our fingers crossed Ivan would be resting players,” he said.

“He ended up resting them and putting me in which is good. I can’t wait.”

“I’m gonna go at it. Dylan’s a wonderful player who does a real good job at the back. I’ll just go out and try my best and hopefully we’ll get a win.”

>>>RELATED: LIVING THE DREAM: Behind the scenes of Daine’s big game

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 08: Liam Martin of the Panthers and Daine Laurie of the Panthers celebrate after winning the round 13 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 08, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 08: Liam Martin of the Panthers and Daine Laurie of the Panthers celebrate after winning the round 13 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 08, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Laurie said morale has been high after finishing the regular season on top of the table, but celebrations were short and sweet as the Panthers approach the business end of the NRL season.

“There’s a good feeling around the club at moment. We haven’t won the minor premiership in quite a few years but we’ve got our sights on something bigger, to win the premiership,” he said.

“Our main focus is on having a good three to four weeks and giving it everything we’ve got in the finals. The chemistry at the club is great. We’re a really tight bunch and we all want to get into the grand final.”

Along with the Panthers, a number of other squads have elected to rest some of their superstars with a huge number of debuts across the competition for the closing round.

Along with Laurie at fullback, Tyrone May will start at centre, with Kurt Capewell in the second row and Matt Burton on the bench.

GAME DAY: The Panthers take on the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium from 3pm Saturday, with the match being streamed on Kayo Sports and FOX League.



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