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They've had 20 weeks to prepare but the time has come for Wayne Bennett's Dolphins to face the ultimate test against the defending premier Panthers. 

Hosting the competition leaders on the back of five losses would have almost been an impossible challenge for the newcomers but thanks to a golden point victory against the Titans on Sunday, the Dolphins have ended their losing streak and are back in the mix for finals contention, sitting only two points outside the eight.

Having posted victories against the Raiders and Sharks and taken the Broncos to the wire, the Dolphins have proved they're well capable of an upset and if they can find a way to overcome Penrith, they would be putting the whole NRL on notice.

Meanwhile, Panthers faced the toughest Origin period, with six players having been called into Blues camp throughout the series but the premiers have gone about their business in clinical fashion and still hold top-spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder.

While they have retained playmaker Jarome Luai, how many of their Blues back up after Wednesday's series finale remains to be seen but such is the Panthers' depth that they will still go in as clear favourites to rack up their 12th win of the season.

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Team News 

Dolphins: A late change with Tesi Niu dropping out, replaced on the wing by Valynce Te Whare. Enforcer Felise Kaufusi (concussion) returns to the second row so Mark Nicholls pushes up to prop and Kenny Bromwich goes to the bench. Anthony Milford will start at five-eighth with Isaiya Katoa shifting to the pine. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow backs up from Origin III in the centres with Kodi Nikorima to play fullback.

Panthers: Nathan Cleary won't make a return on Sunday, ruled out another week with a hamstring injury. Coach Ivan Cleary has also chosen to rest his Origin stars with Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo all coming out of the team 24 hours before kick-off. Tyrone Peachey, Thomas Jenkins, Zac Hosking and Matt Eisenhuth all come into the starting side with Luke Garner 18th man.

Stat Attack 

  • The Dolphins have not won back-to-back games since the opening rounds of the season.
  • Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has won six of his past seven games against Wayne Bennett-coached teams.
  • The Dolphins have won both of their games at Kayo Stadium.
  • Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai will make his 100th NRL appearance.
  • The Dolphins have won only two from nine against teams currently in the top eight
  • Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards is leading the competition in run metres per game with 3,494. The second-ranked player is Herbie Farnworth with 2,944.
  • The Panthers are leading the competition in possession (54%) and set completion rate (82%). 

Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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