After watching Penrith’s first 20 minutes last Sunday afternoon against Parramatta, Panthers fans would have been looking away in sheer fright, but when Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Viliame Kikau hit the field midway through the first half, it really changed the dynamic of the game.
While it’s my firm belief an Australian representative like RCG should be starting games, the pair were able to punch through the line and create some quick play the balls which allowed Cleary and Maloney to step up and get some momentum towards the end of the first half.
The move also allowed quick guys like Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to punch into some tired Eels defenders and open up the game.
As I mentioned earlier, RCG needs to start every week. I understand there’s a game plan that coach Anthony Griffin (pictured) is going with which allows him to play longer minutes, but you have to capitalise on the form that he’s brought back from playing with Australia.
When RCG starts it gives the rest of the team confidence because he’s chomping at the bit to get out there and throw his weight around.
Right now he’s coming off the bench to play the last 60 minutes, but I don’t know if that’s the recipe for success long-term, especially if Penrith continue with this pattern of starting games rather slow.
As fans we expect Penrith to make the most out of their premiership window and starting Reagan Campbell-Gillard gives them a huge edge.
Another player that gives the Panthers a big edge is Viliame Kikau, who enjoyed a very strong game over the weekend scoring a try and breaking eight tackles.
When Kikau came to Penrith a few years ago he had a few ankle issues but it appears he’s finally got that right and is looking very fit.
He starred for Fiji in the World Cup and, on the weekend, everyone saw how destructive he can be in the back-row.
Coach Griffin certainly has some decisions to make in the coming weeks but I think Campbell-Gillard and Kikau really changed the fortunes of the Panthers last week, so it will be interesting to see how he uses these two moving forward.