Penrith fans blurted out a plethora of excuses after the side suffered its first loss of the season last Friday night, however star centre Stephen Crichton wasn’t using one.
With seven players missing due to Origin commitments, one player suspended, a handful of debutants and a new halves pairing, losing to a hungry – bordering on vengeful – Wests Tigers outfit probably wasn’t that much of a surprise in hindsight.
While the 26-6 beating put an end to Penrith’s incredible 12-game winning streak, many believe it most likely wouldn’t have happened had the club’s Origin brigade played a part.
Asked whether the game’s showpiece should be played at season’s end to avoid star players missing games, Crichton said no matter who is playing, it’s the responsibility of the players on the field to step up to the challenge.
“Whether the Origin boys played or not, it’s our responsibility to keep getting those wins… it’s up to us senior boys to step up and be better,” the 20-year-old told the Weekender.
“There’s no excuses… we still had a good enough team to get the win, but they obviously wanted it more. It was a big learning curve.”
Despite trying hard for much of the match, supporters saw glimpses of the abysmal 2019 Panthers last Friday at Leichhardt, with the patched-up side unable to create anything resembling a try, as well as leaking the most points in a game all season.
Crichton said the mass line-up changes heading into the fiery encounter resulted in a lack of cohesion on the field.
“It was funny out there, just the boys’ timing was off. T-May plays different to Nathan and Burto plays differently to Romey,” he said.
“After getting that game under our belt though, I reckon we’ll be heaps better this week against the Sharks.
“At training, we’re fixing up those little lapses we had and trying to put in an 80-minute performance again. We’ll be right.”
While Ivan Cleary has named his Origin stars in his 23-man squad, it’s understood most of them won’t back up for Friday’s clash.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.