The Penrith Panthers will take on the Sydney Roosters this weekend in an attempt to bounce back from a Storm thrashing and gain winning momentum heading into finals.
Failing to produce consistent performances week-in week-out, the Panthers will be looking to re-establish themselves as a dominant team in the competition.
Origin had a significant impact on Ivan Cleary’s team this year with a record of seven Panthers selected to represent their respective states.
Cleary confessed that coping with such a large Origin representation was a new experience but nonetheless a good one for his team.
“We certainly didn’t go through an Origin period or a period with so many changes last year,” Cleary said.
With many of the Panthers’ Origin representatives facing injury or suspension, Cleary admits staff have been working hard tirelessly to help his team achieve full fitness, particularly his son Nathan.
Indicating that the halfback has been hammering away at his recovery, Cleary says the time will come eventually.
“We don’t really have an exact timeline, it’s just a matter of going through the process,” he said.
After suffering a 27-point loss to the Storm last week, the Panthers have reflected on moved on.
“We’re pretty determined, it was just another step in our journey last week,” Cleary said.
“We weren’t happy with the performance but there were some reasons for it as well.
“We’ve certainly moved on, owned it and we’re looking forward to tomorrows game.”
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After being dealt $50,000 worth of fines and a two-week suspension for breaching the NRL’s strict COVID protocols, hooker Api Koroisau will return to the side this week.
Koroisau will look to make an impact in combination with fellow Blue’s representative Isaah Yeo who returns from concussion.
The inexperienced Panthers’ spine will be looking to find form against the Roosters in the absence of Nathan Cleary.
“We had a very inexperienced team last week, a pretty new halves pairing as well,” Ivan Cleary said.
But the Panthers’ coach assures that Koroisau is excited to return and do this best for his team, intentionally lifting morale across the field.
Koroisau and Yeo play a key role for the young Panthers outfit, dominating in attack, they are able to give inexperienced players confidence and direction.
Tevita Pangai Jr. will not make his debut for Penrith this week, after being granted leave for “a deeply personal and sensitive matter”.
With only five games left of the home-and-away season, there is still work to be done as the Panthers prepare for finals.
“Everyone wants to go into finals in good form, we’ve definitely got some more gears in us,” Cleary said.
“We haven’t been at our best for a while, but that’s all part of the journey I feel”.
The Penrith Panthers will play the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium at 5:30pm on Saturday, entering the match as favourites, they will strive to defeat Trent Robinson’s side for a second time this season.
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