Danger game in golden west

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The difference between ecstasy and agony was no better exemplified than by Penrith and Parramatta in their respective NRL matches last weekend (round three).

For the Panthers, Jamie Soward’s incredible cut out pass gave Matt Moylan the opportunity to win the game and send the strong home crowd into raptures. It was a special moment.

For the Eels, they looked like they’d pulled off the most remarkable of upsets until Steve Matai spoiled the party in the dying moments to secure Manly victory at Brookvale Oval.

This weekend, the headspace of both teams will be vitally important when determining the result.

I truly believe this is a danger game for the Panthers and should the side not be right mentally for this one, I fear what the result could be.

Parramatta were reasonably impressive in their opening round encounter against the Warriors, were unlucky last week against the Sea Eagles and were simply outclassed against the Roosters in round two. Their coach, senior players and fans are eagerly awaiting some consistency given the three varied results so far, and there’s little doubt that the Eels will be switched on for this.

Penrith would have pushed aside any nasty taste still lingering from their late round two loss to Melbourne with the last gasp victory over the Bulldogs last weekend. They now need to string wins together and there’s a real opportunity to pick up this match and next weekend’s game at home against Canberra.

Win, loss, win, loss is not the type of form coach Ivan Cleary would be looking for – he knows his side is better than just being in the mid-table pack but to prove it, early wins are vital.

The Panthers go on a really tough run mid-season when they’ll be on the road for weeks at a time and potentially without some players due to Origin duty, and doing the hard work now will be much better than chasing “what ifs” come the end of the season.

Tim Grant and Sam McKendry must lay the platform in this game – both ran over 100 metres last weekend and McKendry had his best game for some time. Grant was good too and his fantastic line break, although ending poorly, showed what a damaging player he can be when in the right frame of mind and fully fit.

Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace should resume their partnership this weekend after Wallace was a late withdrawal against the Bulldogs, but I’m most looking forward to watching Matt Moylan play this weekend.

Moylan was a real standout when he debuted last season, but his form started to wilt towards the end of the year.

He’s had a steady start to the 2014 season but the sideline conversion to win the game last weekend will without doubt put him in the right headspace to step up a gear.

And there’s that word again – headspace.

This is a local derby, a fierce rivalry, a battle for pride in western Sydney.

If your headspace isn’t right for such a game, there’s something wrong.

But players aren’t robots and games aren’t won on paper, so the respective coaches have plenty to do this weekend to ensure the mental side is as ready to go as the physical.

The danger men for Penrith’s defence, which hasn’t conceded more than three tries in a game all season, will be out wide with Semi Radradra and Will Hopoate the obvious key players.

Parramatta pulled off a selection surprise on Tuesday when naming Chris Sandow to return to first grade at halfback. He will also give the Eels some much-needed assistance when it comes to goal kicking, which hurt them last weekend.

There’s nothing quite like playing Parramatta, and nothing quite like beating them – let’s hope the latter occurs on Saturday at Pirtek Stadium.

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