Down 28-6, coach Anthony Griffin would have had every right to read the riot act to his 17 players as they sat despondent in the dressing room at Pepper Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
Instead, he took a different approach. He remained relatively calm, talked about the positives and spoke about what it would take to get themselves out of what was a very deep hole.
Griffin had perhaps sensed that this was not the time for a rant and rave. He had done that against the Broncos a fortnight earlier, and you have to pick your moments.
As he said in the post-match press conference after his side’s remarkable comeback to win the game, the Panthers had managed to find some bizarre and ridiculous ways to be scored against in that first half. Fix up those errors, and perhaps they were a chance. A positive attitude was the key.
As we have suspected for some weeks now, the Panthers only needed some confidence to kickstart their season and start to show glimpses of their potential. If Penrith do manage to go on to make the Finals this year, it may well all come back to that 12 minute period between the 47th and 59th minutes, when they scored four tries and suddenly found their mojo.
The win last Saturday was important. Ensuring it is capitalised on is even more critical.
The Panthers now start a long stint away from Pepper Stadium (they won’t be back until July), but it is a period on the road that could garner plenty of competition points, starting this Sunday against last placed Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Panthers thrashed the Knights earlier this year but it’s unlikely it’ll be as easy this time around. Apart from the advantage of playing on their home turf, Newcastle found some form and confidence last weekend with a 34-20 victory over Canberra, proving they aren’t the easybeats of the competition everyone considers them to be.
For the Panthers from here, it’s all about finding consistency. They have some ground to make up and this match offers them the chance to win back to back games for the first time this year, and further boost the confidence levels that were given a significant lift in the second half against the Warriors.
It was pleasing to see players like Matt Moylan and Trent Merrin produce their best performances of the season last weekend, but even better was watching Isaah Yeo being rewarded for what has been a great year so far (he’s been one of Penrith’s best in my opinion). With Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Bryce Cartwright also stepping up to the plate, the team certainly started to gel a lot more last weekend and it will surely only get better from here.
James Fisher-Harris again finds himself on the sideline with injury, but otherwise Penrith’s side is relatively unchanged.
Last weekend’s miracle comeback means nothing without a win this Sunday, making this one of the most critical games of the season so far. I’m expecting a tight first half but the Panthers should have too much for the re-building Knights as the game rolls on.
Tip: Panthers by 12
Penrith and Newcastle play on Sunday, May 21 at 2pm at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor.