THE scoreboard may not have been pretty but Mitch Achurch (right) says the first grade experience the side's young guns took away from the Panthers' loss against the Rabbitohs was invaluable.
With three of the team's biggest stars unavailable due to State of Origin commitments and numerous injuries plaguing the side, the final Penrith line-up included several players who debuted this year.
Winger Josh Mansour, lock Ryan Simpkins, second-rower Matt Robinson and front-rower Achurch were all chosen to tackle the Rabbitohs and while the result was disappointing, Achurch said the less-experienced Panthers benefited hugely from every opportunity to play first grade.
"For me personally, every game I play, I feel like I learn a lot about how to survive in the NRL," he said.
"The longer I get out there, the more used to the speed I get and the more comfortable I get."
Achurch was confident the minutes the up-and-comers received now would bolster the club immensely in the long run.
"Every year there needs to be an influx of young blokes coming into first grade, that's what keeps a club strong," he said.
"The good this is we have a good platform, with older blokes doing a good job as mentors for us, and hopefully in the years to come we can replay the club for the faith they showed in us."
He added that the biggest lesson he'd learned since debuting was the importance of determination.
"I got my opportunity in round four and then I got pushed back to NSW Cup and even though it was frustrating trying to get back, I was rewarded for my patience," he said.
"I kept playing good football and that's been the biggest lesson — to stay patient and keep doing what I know works for me."
When surrounded by the professionalism of first grade football, the 23-year-old said it was impossible not to grow as a player and as a person.
"You grow up pretty quickly when you get into NRL," he said.
"Not only do you mature as a footballer but a person as well. And for me, that's been a big thing this year.
"I'm changing every day."