Panthers playing with belief

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There is little doubt that the two clubs suffering most from injury problems at the moment are the Panthers and the Wests Tigers.

However, how both sides are handling the problem couldn’t be more different.

Over at Campbelltown – or Leichhardt, or Allianz Stadium, or wherever the Tigers may be based this week – injuries are being used as an excuse, or at least it seems that way.

The violins are out, and we’re all expected to fell sorry for a Tigers side that is without some of their biggest names, leaving them languishing at the bottom of the ladder.

In Penrith, the injury toll is about the same, if not worse, but the response is very different. It is one of belief in each other.

Captain Kevin Kingston summed it up best this week when he said the team had no superstars. Future superstars perhaps, but no players who were necessarily guiding the side on their own.

Instead, Penrith’s crucial wins over the last month over Parramatta, Melbourne and the Warriors have come thanks to players nobody but the Panthers’ most dedicated fans had even heard of when the season kicked off.

Players like Isaac John, who has emerged as the feel-good story of the year.

Players like Matt Moylan, who has an amazing skillset that will one day rival the best fullbacks in the competition.
Veterans, too, have played their part.

Much-maligned at times, there can be no denying the positive impact Nigel Plum, Luke Walsh and David Simmons are currently having on the team.

In addition, Dean Whare and Lewis Brown are proving superb makeshift centres despite neither starting the season there.

It’s amazing, really, how injury pressure has forced Ivan Cleary into making decisions that have ultimately proved to be winners.

As players return from injury throughout the season, he now faces a spoil of riches he didn’t even know he had three months ago.

Actually, I take that back.

Perhaps Cleary knew all along.

Either way, that should be the story he tells if this team continues to perform the way it has over the past month.

Even in the hiccup against the Roosters, Penrith hung in there, and had Sonny Bill Williams not been awarded a controversial try in the first half, the result could have been much closer.

There’s no reason the great run can’t continue for the Panthers this week. After all, they’ve already come up against the best players in the world, and beaten them.

They’ve proved they can score points, putting more than 60 on the Warriors last week and more than 40 on the Eels a fortnight ago.

Defensively, the side has conceded just 16 points in their past two matches and scored 74. Incredible, really.

The Dragons pose an almighty threat this weekend but it cannot be denied that in their current form, no challenge is too great for the Panthers.

A loss would not be the end of the world, but a win would more than likely put Penrith into the top eight and with a bye coming up next weekend, it’s the perfect time to clock up a third consecutive win to ensure the confidence remains high heading into a week off.

After the bye, Penrith face the Wests Tigers back at Penrith Stadium, a game, based on the respective attitudes of both teams at the moment, that they should win.

Player match-ups this weekend don’t matter. They didn’t matter against the Eels, the Storm or the Warriors. Belief is what matters, and whilst the Dragons have plenty of it as well particularly after a big win last weekend, Penrith seem to be on top of the ladder in the belief stakes at the moment.

This team of no-names is on the verge of proving the critics, me included, very wrong.

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