Soward: Depth could help deliver Panthers a title

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After watching Penrith dismantle North Queensland with ease last Thursday night, this is the team we all thought they could be.

Following the opening four rounds of the season, only a few teams have shown their true colours and it was nice to see the Panthers amongst that group.

That win over the Cowboys was easily Penrith’s best performance in the last two years.

So much has been made of their lethargic starts to begin the year but with the addition of Viliame Kikau to the back row, it really has put some fear factor in that left edge.

Kikau provided a huge x-factor for the Panthers and he set the tempo early on, not just with his attack but his defence too. It was also encouraging to see Reagan Campbell-Gillard feed off that as well as James Maloney, who showed just how good he is at game management – steering the ship to perfection all night.

Everyone thought young half Jarome Luai would debut against the Cowboys last week but instead it was Lithgow junior Wayde Egan, who became Panther 575.

Egan is Penrith’s future number nine and it just shows the strength of how Phil Gould and the Panthers Board have been able to put the next crop of juniors in place year after year.
Luai will get his chance down the track, maybe during the Origin period when Maloney gets selected for the Blues.

But all this proves Penrith will have a very strong side for many years to come. They’ve kept the players they’ve really wanted to keep and they’ll build around blokes that have bought into Gus’ and Anthony Griffin’s system.

This Sunday afternoon, the Panthers will take on a Parramatta side that they only came up against four weeks ago.

After Parramatta’s struggles since that opening round, I’m really expecting Penrith to blow the Eels away in the opening 20 minutes.

Parramatta haven’t been great to start the year, and they will be hurting after their fourth straight loss. But with the way Penrith played last week, they should really blow them out of the water – as long as they don’t let that win over the Cowboys inflate their heads too much.

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