Panthers lose Brian To'o for semi final clash with Eels

Winger Brian To'o has been ruled out of the Penrith Panthers' semi final Albert Perez/Getty Images

Penrith have lost one of their most potent weapons after regaining another for Saturday night's NRL semi-final against Parramatta as they fight to avoid the worst finals capitulation in 32 years.

In a blow for the Panthers on the eve of the clash, State of Origin winger Brian To'o has been ruled out with a minor ankle complaint.

The Blues star has scored 14 tries in 19 games this season and the loss of his powerful kick returns will leave a huge hole in Penrith's attack.

Brent Naden will move into the starting side in his place.

It comes after coach Ivan Cleary confirmed on Friday that fullback Dylan Edwards will return from a foot injury after he was missed in last week's loss to South Sydney.

Penrith players have declared Edwards one of their most underrated players, with Nathan Cleary claiming last week his value is too often overlooked.

The figures reveal just how vital the Bellingen junior and his combination with halfback Cleary is to Penrith.

Edwards and Cleary have lost just one game together since the start of last season, with the 2020 grand-final defeat to Melbourne their only disappointment in 26 games.

Edwards' value is not picked up in statistics, ranking well down the list of fullbacks in most key figures.

But his involvement is close to the highest in the NRL with the most runs of all regular fullbacks.

He also remains a key piece of Penrith's attacking structure, as well as being a noted communicator at the back.

"He's good like that, his support plays are top rate as well," coach Ivan Cleary said.

"Some of those little moments where you make breaks or whatever, he doesn't miss those.

"Dyl is a very important player in our team for a bunch of reasons.

"There's a lot of things probably outside that you can't see, he's highly valued in our team."

Moses Leota also returns after a calf strain while Scott Sorensen can complete a remarkable two-week return from a dislocated forearm.

But Edwards' return is the most important, given it also means Stephen Crichton can return to the right wing.

"I thought Critta was one of our best last week, I thought he was outstanding through the game," Cleary said.

"He brings a different skill set that what Dyl does.

"So it's good to have him back and still be able to use Stephen in a different role but still add value to our team as well."

Penrith are looking to avoid one of the most anti-climactic ends to a season in years.

No top-two team has bowed out in straight sets since Manly in 2014, with the Panthers in 2010 and St George Illawarra in 2009 the only other teams to have done so in the past 15 years.

However no team has gone out of the finals with two straight losses after such a dominant regular season since the Rabbitohs in 1989, who went 18-1-3 before being knocked out by Balmain and Canberra.