The competition is back on, baby! The suspension of Nathan Cleary on top of the injury to Jerome Luai has put the tiniest of spanners in the works of Penrith's premiership drive.
The door is ajar for one of those few other genuine contenders that can pull it all together at the back end of the season and make a serious run at the title.
OK, it might only be far enough ajar for an undernourished mouse to sneak through at this stage, but from little things big things grow!
It's better than being slammed shut, which is how it was looking before those recent developments affecting the halves pairing for the Panthers.
Cleary definitely won't be back until the first week of the finals after receiving a five-match suspension for a dangerous throw on Parramatta five-eighth Dylan Brown last weekend.
And indications are Luai also won't return until then because of medial ligament damage to his knee sustained against Cronulla two rounds back.
Now, I understand the theory that this could all turn out to be good for the Panthers, because both players will be available and fresh for the finals and won't be risking anything worse happening in the games between now and then.
They're elite players with plenty of experience at both club and representative levels, so they should be able to slip straight back into gear - even in a high-pressure game like a qualifying final, from which the winner receives the benefit of advancing straight to week three of the playoffs.
I get all of that. But none of it is automatic. What if Luai is a bit rusty and it shows? Or Cleary? What if both of them are? What if the timing of the team is just that little bit off because Luai and Cleary have not been a part of it on game-day for an extended period? This stuff can happen.
One thing you can be sure of is that the Panthers, who will still almost certainly be minor premiers since they have a six-point competition lead and a points differential that is 86 points superior to the next-best, won't be playing some dud team when Cleary and Luai make their returns.
It's unlikely to be North Queensland, which would have to slip dramatically from their current second place, but it could be Cronulla, Melbourne, Brisbane, Parramatta or South Sydney.
I'm sure some of you are saying: "Hang on, Penrith lost in the first week of last year's finals series and went on to win the comp."
That they did, but it was still a tightrope walk. After that first-up loss to South Sydney they beat the Eels by two points in the semi-finals, the Storm by four in the preliminary finals and the Rabbitohs by two in the grand final.
The Panthers deserved the title. They were unquestionably the best team of 2021. They emerged victorious from three colossal, down-to-the-wire contests in a row to prove it. And that experience has made them an even better team this year.
But what I'm saying is that things can happen which can put even a team like Penrith under a degree of pressure they weren't anticipating and that's what the unavailability of key players in the last few rounds heading down to the finals can do.
It's not just me. The bookmakers have reacted by easing Penrith's premiership odds. Look, they're not giving away any presents, but the Panthers did touch the slightest bit of odds-on before last week's loss to Parramatta and now they're back to the slightest bit of odds against.
It means if you throw 10 bucks on and they win it'll be just about enough extra to cover the price of a loaf of bread.
But, hey, I'm just making the point that the extended outs of both Cleary and Luai at this time of the season is a bit of a worry. They might come back for week one of the finals, pick up where they left off and steer Penrith to another premiership, but, again, there are no guarantees.
Two weeks ago in a column here I searched for likely challengers to the Panthers, if there were any.
The Storm were faltering and I came up with the Cowboys and the Broncos.
Since then, the Broncos have belted the Eels and been well beaten by Wests Tigers and the Cowboys should've lost to the Tigers, only to win via a shocking video referee decision, and easily beat St George Illawarra.
Penrith, meanwhile, have beaten the Sharks, only for Luai to get hurt along the way, and lost to Parramatta, with Cleary sent off and suspended.
But even before Cleary was dismissed, that strange phenomenon that sees the Eels lift dramatically against the Panthers and the Panthers struggle to deal with them was kicking in. The Eels had reversed a 6-0 deficit to lead 12-6 and were in control.
No-one can say for sure that they would've gone on to win had it remained 13 against 13, but the game was certainly pointed in that direction.
Parramatta is the only team that has beaten Penrith this season and now they've done it twice.
Wouldn't that be the most interesting match-up in week one of the finals, if it worked out that way - the Panthers versus the Eels.
But the currently sixth-placed Eels have got their own challenges when it comes to climbing back into the top four, with halfback Mitch Moses out for at least three weeks with a broken finger.
Watch out, the rest of you highly-paid number sevens. It's not a lucky number at the moment.
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