The ladder-leading Penrith Panthers have been decimated for round 13 with seven players out due to Origin selection. The Panthers have gone undefeated through the 12 rounds to date. To keep this winning streak going, junior members of the squad will need to stand up.
Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo, Apo Koroisau are the Penrith Panthers in the NSW squad while Kurt Capewell will be in the Maroons squad.
With so many players out over the next six weeks, coach Ivan Cleary will need to come up with some creative solutions. Thankfully Penrith has built a 2-match buffer between first and second, allowing for a slight drop-off.
Ivan Cleary is confident in the side’s winning ability and spoke on how proud he is to have a large origin contingent.
“It’s a big milestone for our club, this size of representation is only reserved for the most successful clubs”. Cleary said.
“It will be a great challenge for our culture and our systems; it is a great opportunity for some of the young guys. We have got some guys making their debut.”
The Panthers will have three debutants against the Tigers, Jaeman Salmon, Lindsey Smith, and Izack Tago are the men to get an opportunity. All three players are named on the bench but will get the opportunity for substantial game time.
Lindsey Smith spoke beautifully while receiving his Penrith Panthers jersey.
“I’ve always looked up to a lot of you as kids, and for all the work you’ve put into me and always helping me, it’s an honour.” Smith said.
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Ivan Cleary also spoke on these debutants and what they will add to the side.
“We will stick to what we do, we run the same systems in reserve grade, these guys will be used to that same style of footy. So, they will just have to do what they do every week.
Thankfully for the Panthers, some experience will be back with Dylan Edwards and J’Maine Hopgood returning after serious injuries. The Penrith Panthers head physio spoke on the returning players.
“Dylan Edwards has shown enough in training over the past week in overcoming his hamstring strain. J’Maine Hopgood has successfully cleared all our fitness tests and has completed all training this week.
Full-time club captains Nathan Cleary and Isaiah Yeo are out, therefore a new captain is required. Viliame Kikau has been the man chosen by coach Ivan Cleary to take up the leadership position. While he has seen his playing time drop during the season. With seven players out, Kikau will be a crucial leader for the Panthers.
This origin period will be the biggest test for the premiership favourite Penrith Panthers. With so many players out this is the side’s most difficult test. Ivan Clary will need to find a way to embrace the youth in his side and continuing the winning formula.
The Penrith Panthers play the West Tigers on Friday night with kick-off at 7:50 pm.
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