Penrith Panthers utility Peta Hiku has opened up for the first time after getting dropped earlier this month for breaching team protocol.
Along with skipper Matt Moylan and fellow back Waqa Blake, the 24-year-old was demoted from Penrith’s NRL side to take on the Rabbitohs back in Round 6, due to breaking a team rule after a night out in Melbourne.
Speaking with the Weekender on Monday, the former New Zealand international said the recent controversy was a “wake up call” and one he has learned from.
“I’ve accepted the punishment,” Hiku said.
“Every coach is different and Hook thought that was the best decision for our team and I reckon it gave me a wake up call. I’m certainly not holding a grudge or anything.”
Following their axing to reserve grade, the ‘party boys’ were forced to play in front of a smattering of loyal fans in St Marys the day after Penrith’s one-point loss to Souths.
“It wasn’t too bad playing in St Marys, it was different,” Hiku admitted.
“It certainly was a big wake up call not being with the first grade side.”
After a week of exile, Hiku, Moylan and Blake all made their returns to first grade last Sunday in Penrith’s 28-2 defeat to the Sharks.
The 26-point hammering was Penrith’s worst loss at home in years and their third straight defeat of the season.
Hiku said the mood at Penrith HQ “wasn’t too bad”.
“It’s been better,” he said.
“I think we are more frustrated than anything. With the team we’ve got we can do better. But it’s not going our way, we’re not building our own luck.
“When it comes to game day we are obviously doing something wrong, it’s something we are going to have to change.”
Since returning from a busted eye socket in Round 3, Hiku has been relegated from Penrith’s starting side to a utility role off the bench. It has placed some question marks over his long-term future.
The former Manly star admitted it was a challenge playing in a new position each week.
“Since my debut at Manly I’ve been in and out of different positions and I suppose that’s still the same here,” he said.
“I don’t mind the role coming off the bench, playing in the back-row is a lot of work – a lot of defence.”
With Bryce Cartwright due to return this week, Hiku will be battling to keep his position in Penrith’s side for this Saturday’s clash against Parramatta, despite being named on Tuesday.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.