Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has finally pushed the button, naming captain Matt Moylan at five-eighth for Sunday’s clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
And the decision to shift Moylan into the halves could be the final nail in the coffin for youngster Te Maire Martin, who is again set to play reserve grade this weekend.
Griffin was forced to re-shuffle his side after Bryce Cartwright, who had been playing in the number six jumper for more than a month, suffered a knee injury against Newcastle a fortnight ago.
It’s understood Griffin would have seriously considered shifting Peter Wallace into the halves to partner Nathan Cleary, but he too was injured in the Knights game, leaving Griffin to either bring Martin back to first grade or answer fans’ calls and shift Moylan from fullback.
Moylan trained at five-eighth yesterday and today after being released from the NSW Origin camp on the weekend. He’ll re-join the Blues team as a back-up player ahead of the opening match against Queensland at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night.
Earlier today, the new halves combination of Moylan and Cleary got some high profile help, with Panthers legend Greg Alexander strapping on the boots and taking the pairing through their paces.
While 25-year-old Moylan has been in a playmaking role at Penrith for some time, similarities are being drawn between his switch to five-eighth and that of Darren Lockyer, who started his glittering career at Brisbane as a fullback before Wayne Bennett famously moved him into the number six jumper.
Griffin has named Dylan Edwards at fullback for Sunday’s clash with Canterbury while Josh Mansour has been named to make his long-awaited return.
Mitch Rein will play his first NRL game for Penrith, named to replace Wallace at hooker.
Meanwhile, there is ongoing speculation that Te Maire Martin could leave the Panthers prior to June 30, the deadline for player transfers. If he doesn’t, he’s at long odds to be at Penrith next season.
Griffin’s decision to switch Moylan to the halves over promoting Martin back into first grade is the biggest indication yet that the 21-year-old’s future at the foot of the Mountains is clouded.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have named in-doubt skipper James Graham for the clash but Josh Reynolds remains out.
Panthers team: Dylan Edwards, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Waqa Blake, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Matt Moylan (c), Nathan Cleary, James Tamou, Mitch Rein, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Corey Harawira-Naera, Isaah Yeo, Trent Merrin. Bench: Tyrone Peachey, Leilani Latu, Tim Browne, Viliame Kikau, Peta Hiku, Moses Leota, Te Maire Martin.
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.