There is not a single bone in my body that can feel a Penrith victory against the Sydney Roosters this weekend.
With their season on the line two weeks in a row, the Panthers have produced lazy, fumbling, ill-disciplined performances that have shattered fans and left no evidence as to why it’ll suddenly be any different against better opposition in the Roosters.
Whatever hope that was left in Penrith’s season disappeared in an instant with Kyle Feldt’s embarrassing 58th minute try last Friday, with the Cowboys exposing Penrith’s poor attitude by taking a simple 20 metre tap and racing away to score. It was amateur-hour stuff.
Penrith still have an outside chance of making the Finals – but it would have to start with a miracle the equivalent of turning water into wine this Saturday night at the SCG.
It’s unfamiliar territory for the Panthers – to the best of my reckoning they haven’t played at this venue since the 1980s – while the Roosters have settled well into their temporary home, only losing one match there this season (back in round one). In fact, and it’s no comfort to Penrith fans, consider some of the points they’ve piled on at home this season: 36 against Brisbane, 42 against the Tigers, 38 against the Bulldogs, 48 against the Knights, 58 against the Titans and 42 against the Warriors.
Coach Trent Robinson has named a strong squad for Saturday night’s game, resisting any temptation to rest players given it now seems certain his side will finish in second place.
The Roosters tore the Dragons apart last Saturday night, with Cooper Cronk leaving everyone to question why he’s hanging up the boots after a five star performance that just screamed game management.
Wherever you look, the Roosters are dangerous. Penrith on the other hand look out of ideas in attack, even when opportunities close to the line do present themselves.
For the Panthers to win, everything will need to go right from the outset and a number of players will need to produce their best performances of the season.
Viliame Kikau has had a stop-start year through injuries and suspension but hasn’t looked as dangerous as we know he can be in recent weeks, but a standout performance here could change Penrith’s fortunes dramatically.
James Maloney’s form has really slipped since returning from the State of Origin series and announcing his exit from the NRL, but we know what he’s capable of – one of those ‘Jimmy wins’ performances could come in really handy about now.
If both of those guys can fire, I might start to believe in that miracle, but one gets the feeling it’s all a little too late.
Penrith will debut William Burns off the bench with Isaah Yeo out injured, a terrific opportunity for the kid but a further weakening of the Panthers’ much-needed experience against a far superior Roosters outfit.
Mitch Kenny is in slight doubt for the Panthers after suffering a shoulder problem at training during the week.
Unfortunately, given how well the Roosters are travelling and how ordinary Penrith have looked over the last fortnight, there’s just no way I can see anything but a bloodbath at the SCG on Saturday.
Tip: Roosters by 16.
The Panthers and Roosters play on Saturday, August 31 at 7.35pm at the SCG.
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.