Soward: Panthers will bounce back

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On the back of a couple of disappointing losses, I’m sure the State of Origin period is having some effect on the Penrith Panthers in recent weeks.

In 2011, when I was playing at the Dragons, we lost five in a row out of Origin and went from being first to fifth during that period.
It just takes its toll on you.

When you come back to your club you have to be up for training every day, you’re back to early morning starts and there’s not much hype surrounding a regular competition game like there is an Origin match.

For a young guy like Nathan Cleary – who’s experiencing his first taste of Origin footy – that’s part and parcel of being a rep player. When you return to your club, you’re expected to play like a rep player and you’re expected to hold yourself within the higher standards.

While I didn’t play much Origin footy during my career, I personally struggled during that period in 2011 because it’s a totally different environment when you come back.

No longer are you playing in front of 80,000 cheering fans, no longer are you sleeping in a comfortable hotel room, and no longer is your food prepared.

There’s definitely an adjustment period out of Origin that some players take a while to get used to.

And while times are tough at Penrith right now, I don’t believe for one second they’ll miss the top eight – it’ll just come down to positioning and how quickly they get back on track.

The Panthers have a tough few weeks with the Warriors, Sharks and Broncos on the agenda but then they play the Sea Eagles again, Raiders, Titans and Knights. They’d ideally like to win half of their games during that period.

Penrith’s run of good form will hopefully begin tonight against the Warriors at Panthers Stadium. And while they’ll be missing three of their best players due to Origin, they will unleash one of the youngest halves pairings in the competition in Tyrone May and Jarome Luai.

While May and Luai could’ve done with someone like Peter Wallace steering them around at hooker, all the pair really need to do is make sure they finish off their sets and not overplay their hand.

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