Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said his side will need to get off to a better start tomorrow evening if they are to notch up back to back wins to begin the season.
Penrith’s first 20 minutes were awful last Sunday against Parramatta, but fortunately they were able to stay composed and turn their fortunes around to claim victory.
With South Sydney coming off a first round loss to the New Zealand Warriors in Perth, coach Griffin said his troops need to start playing 80-minute football.
“We slaughtered ourselves in those first 15 minutes last week,” he said.
“Even though we came back well and it was a credit to the players, their composure and conditioning, we need to be better than that.
“We got ourselves in trouble and we handled it really well but eventually if we keep doing that, it’s going to cause more problems for us. Souths have quality players across the park, we need to start well against them.”
After a shock loss to the Warriors in WA, South Sydney were dealt a major blow earlier this week when Premiership-winning halfback Adam Reynolds was ruled out with a knee injury.
In his place comes 19-year-old Adam Doueihi, who played in last year’s Rugby League World Cup for Lebanon and the recent Charity Shield.
While not all of the focus will be on young Doueihi, Griffin said Penrith have done their homework on the rookie teenager.
“We’ve done our homework on him but we don’t want to over analyse him,” he said.
“He’s obviously in the team because he can play… He played in the World Cup last year for Lebanon and in the Charity Shield and played very well.
“Like anyone we are weary of him and have done our homework on him.”
After missing out on Penrith’s opening round win over the Eels due to a hamstring injury, Panthers centre Dean Whare is hoping to return to the starting side tomorrow night.
Whare’s inclusion in the side will be a huge boost for the Panthers defensively after Josh Mansour and Tyrone Peachey struggled to contain Parramatta’s attack last weekend.
Griffin said Whare is a good chance of returning tomorrow.
“Dean’s had a good week at training and he’ll have another run today – he’s possible,” Griffin said.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Nathan Cleary tomorrow as he edges closer and closer to breaking former Bulldog Hazem El Masri’s goalkicking record of 35 straight conversions.
The 20-year-old sharpshooter currently sits on 29 conversions without a miss, with just six more needed to tie the Canterbury legend.
Earlier this week, Cleary was snapped by Weekender photographer Melinda Jane putting in extra work after training in the pouring rain.
Griffin said the way Cleary goes about his business is very impressive.
“Nathan’s really meticulous with his practice and habits. He’s a great kid, does a lot of work and extras on his own,” he said.
“He has a session once a week with Darryl Halligan, who is a very good teacher.
“The biggest thing about Nathan is his work ethic and temperament. He handles the pressure of the job really well. He puts in hours and hours of practice, it’s not a fluke what he does.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.