Staines: We’re a better team in 2022

Charlie Staines is likely to be back in first grade next week. Photo: NRL Images.
Share this story

As he looks to hang on to his spot with the impending return of Brian To’o, Panthers winger Charlie Staines believes Penrith – the NRL’s competition leaders and only undefeated team – are better now than they were this time last season.

While the 2021 Panthers went on a 12-game winning streak to start the year and this season’s current group are yet to taste defeat heading into Round 8 against the Titans, Staines said the side has already improved when compared to the first quarter of last season.

“I think we are better,” Staines said confidently on Monday.

“I think we have definitely improved from last year. We’re obviously scoring a lot more points and we’re defending pretty well also.

“I think there’s room for improvement, but I definitely think we are better this year.”

Staines’ comments can also be backed up with statistics. At the same point last year, Penrith had scored 184 points, while this season – after seven games – the Panthers have improved their attack and have notched up a whopping 220 points.

When it comes to defence, the 2021 Panthers were a lot stronger – only leaking 44 points after seven games compared to this year’s 84 points against.

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old speed machine has also assessed his own start to the season after seven games back in the top grade.

Staines played 21 matches for the Panthers last year before being dropped at the pointy end of the season for eventual Grand Final hero Stephen Crichton.

Speaking with the Weekender, Staines said it “feels good” to be back in the NRL after working on some key aspects of his game during the off-season.

“I wanted to come out this year and play some good footy. I’m happy I’m doing that, and the team is going well too,” he said.

Charlie Staines in action against the Dragons earlier this year. Photo: NRL Images.

“I needed to work on getting more involved and not float in and out of games – be mentally present the whole game – and I feel I like I’ve done that.”

While his try-scoring has dried up somewhat compared to previous seasons, Staines’ has already improved his kick returns and running metres to start the year.

Last season the Forbes product averaged 87 running metres per game, while in 2022 he’s boosted that number to 125 metres per game so far.

“My kick returns are a sign of me getting involved in the game and doing my best for the team,” Staines said.

“You’ve got to help out the forwards, every back three does that in the NRL. I’ve worked on that this year and feel like I’ve found a good balance.”

But with NSW Blues star and Premiership winner Brian To’o due back from a knee injury as early as next week, Staines’ positive start in first grade could come to a premature end. With fellow winger Taylan May lighting up the left edge and leading the team in tries scored with eight, all signs point to Staines being the odd man out.

“I’m not sure what will happen when Bizza is fit to play, obviously he’ll come back in the team – he’s one of our best players,” Staines said.

“I’m just focused on trying to play my best footy and doing my best for the team. Whoever Ivan picks, that’s up to him. I’m just going to do my best for the team and whatever happens, happens.”

Staines will likely get one last chance to impress coach Cleary this Friday when the Panthers travel to the Gold Coast to face the battling Titans.

Penrith’s trip up north will be the first time they’ve returned to the Sunshine State since their Grand Final triumph on October 3. Staines said despite the Titans’ struggles to begin the year, he’s expecting nothing but a tough contest.

“Every week is a hard week, everyone turns up to play against us and we don’t take any challenge lightly,” he said.

“No matter where the opposition sits on the table, it’s going to be a hard game. We just want to give our best every single week.”

Share this story