Nobody likes to talk about mathematics as early as round 10 but the reality is that this Saturday afternoon’s clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Pepper Stadium is about as close to ‘do or die’ as it gets for the Penrith Panthers.
With just two wins from their opening nine games, Penrith have to win at least 10 of their final 15 matches to play Finals football. It is a difficult, though not impossible task.
You get the feeling that one win will restore some confidence and perhaps get the Panthers onto a bit of a roll.
With a game against Newcastle, who Penrith smashed 40-0 earlier this year, awaiting the side next week, Saturday’s game against the Warriors is the perfect time to start a run of victories.
Penrith have had a huge break since their last game, having played Brisbane some two weeks ago with the representative round breaking up the week-to-week schedule last weekend.
Plenty of Panthers were on duty for various teams during the rep round and for some, it was an opportunity to play themselves into a bit of form.
James Tamou was the obvious standout. His performance for City was exactly what we hoped him to deliver for Penrith and hopefully it’s given him the confidence to return back to clubland and put in his best performance in Panthers colours.
In fact, all of those who played for City would surely have got something positive out of the experience given they secured an impressive victory, while Leilani Latu looked like the proudest bloke on Earth when he crashed over for Tonga to give them victory over Fiji.
The team named by Anthony Griffin on Tuesday to take on the Warriors retains some curious selections. Griffin seems to be sticking with Bryce Cartwright at five-eighth, despite the availability of Te Maire Martin (he’s named in jumper 21 for this game) and the temptation to move captain Matt Moylan alongside Nathan Cleary.
It seems odd to continue throwing Cartwright into the halves when it’s not his natural position and he’s not playing all that well there. Surely that’s not helping either Cleary or Cartwright, and certainly not Martin who is left to cool his heels in reserve grade. Then again, I’m not the coach (and thank God for that – I’ve got enough grey hairs already!).
While the Warriors’ pack was once its most feared asset, it’s the spine that really poses a danger to Penrith this weekend.
If the Panthers concede the first try and go into their shell as they have done in previous weeks, there’s a big chance Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke will run riot.
The Warriors are so hard to read and find consistency a difficult goal to achieve, but they would be happy with their last-up effort against the Roosters where they toughed out a 14-13 win.
It is imperative that the Panthers get off to a good start. If they score first, they’re likely to settle and slowly build back their confidence and perhaps, in the space of 80 minutes, play themselves back into form. If they don’t, we may be getting out our calculators a lot sooner than we thought.
Get out and support the boys – this one is important.
Tip: Panthers by 10.
The Panthers and Warriors play at Pepper Stadium on Saturday, May 13 at 3pm.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor.