The Panthers weren’t really at Kogarah Oval last Saturday afternoon.
Sure, they got off the bus, found their way to the dressing room and followed Matt Moylan out onto the turf
But mentally, they were a million miles away.
Only Anthony Griffin really knows if there were signs of the embarrassing result emerging in the lead-up to the game, but I suspect their was.
There were so few positives to emerge from the 42-10 spanking that I’m sure Griffin and his players put the result behind them before they even hit the M5 back to Penrith last Sunday. The extraordinary lapses in defence, the lack of spark in attack and the misfiring of several of the team’s best players all added up to a round one failure, but the NRL premiership is a marathon, not a sprint.
Round one often delivers a few surprises and there’s statistics galore out there about eventual Premiers who stumble in the opening rounds.
It is really no surprise to see Penrith posted as favourites ahead of Sunday’s game with the Wests Tigers. There is still no question that Penrith has one of the best squads in this competition, and while they failed to fire against the Dragons, I highly doubt it’ll happen again – at least not to that extent.
The Panthers have surely learned their lesson about taking opposition sides lightly after last weekend’s diabolical effort.
The Tigers showed against Souths that they can punish teams that are vulnerable, and will be keen to build on the scintillating display against the Rabbitohs.
The game plan for Penrith is actually pretty simple – do everything better.
We can’t have Reagan Campbell-Gillard running for just 44 metres and missing six tackles. We can’t have Trent Merrin making just four runs in 44 minutes on the field, nor can we have Bryce Cartwright missing seven tackles and showing himself as a liability in defence close to the line. We can’t fail to find touch, and James Tamou needs to show us even a glimpse of the go-forward he had at the Cowboys.
Almost across the board, every individual needs to lift from the effort they showed last weekend.
The good news for Griffin is that the problems are so black and white, that they can indeed be turned around in the space of a week. This week has surely been more about mental preparation – especially with the Bryce Cartwright off-field drama also surfacing – than anything else.
The match-ups across the park on Sunday are exciting prospects and a glimpse into rugby league’s medium to long term future as far as star players are concerned. Moylan v Tedesco, Moses v Martin, Brooks v Cleary – they are all enticing battles.
Where Penrith can and will win the match is up front. While last week’s numbers might not suggest it, the Panthers have a far superior pack and if they lay the platform, Penrith should be able to restore their pride and collect their first victory of the season.
The big unanswered question is how the side, particularly its younger players, respond to the off-field drama that has circled the club this past week.
Tip: Panthers by 4
The Panthers play the Tigers at 4.00pm on Sunday, March 12 at Campbelltown Stadium. The game will be shown live on Fox League and Channel Nine. Tickets from Ticketek.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.