What a difference a week makes in rugby league. Staring down the barrel at five straight losses and down 12-0 after ten minutes against the Warriors, the Panthers continued to free fall. Josh Mansour scores off a long Isaac John pass and that started an amazing sixty minutes of footy that saw the Panthers triumph at fulltime. We as Panther fans hope the confidence of that last hour in Auckland flows through to this Friday’s all important clash against the Brisbane Broncos at Centrebet Stadium.
Last week I criticised Ivan Cleary for not making any changes after a tough month of football losses. This week I’m glad Ivan hasn’t taken my advice and decided to stick with the same eighteen man squad he took to Auckland. It’s expected Matt Moylan will play with Windsor Wolves after Lachlan Coote’s return last weekend to the start-up side.
As we head into the Panthers last home game of the year most fans would agree that the Dave Simmons-Dean Whare combination on the right has been sensational.
Whare struggled at fullback earlier in the season but has found his spot partnering Dave Simmons. His skills were on show last week with a great flick ball to Simmons for one of his two tries. Simmons has been fantastic at finishing tries and deserves to be leading the top NRL try scoring list with nineteen, two clear of the Knights James McManus and Manly’s Jorge Taufua.
Brisbane continues to walk to finals tightrope, just one point ahead of the Panthers and the fast finishing Cowboys. This week JT’s men will be hoping this Queensland-based team go down. Josh Hoffman was at his best in a game where the Broncos came out firing but struggled to get the better of the Eels despite the result on the scoreboard. Sam Thiaday, Jack Reed, Scott Prince, Hoffman, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker – Anthony Griffen can’t get the on-field results even the calibre of these players.
Says a lot about Ivan Cleary and how well he’s been able to get the Panthers to where they are on the competition ladder this season despite not boasting this type of personnel the Broncos boast.
A loss here and Griffen might be on the chopping block. I was curious why Ben Hunt was picked as half-back in front of Peter Wallace recently. Wallace’s future at Brisbane isn’t certain with talk he’s heading home to Penrith. Ben Hunt doesn’t quite give the opposition any fear. And Scott Prince seems to be a one trick pony as the curtains draw down on a long career. I believe Penrith have the advantage in the halves.
The Panthers need to continue to chance their arm. Luke Walsh needs to continue to create opportunities with his long passing, kicking deep into the corners and forcing the Broncos to play the game out from their try line. Isaac John to support Walsh in getting the ball to Simmons, Whare, Brown and Mansour. We need to be good in defence, frustrate Sam Thiaday and stop Corey Parker’s offloads. If we can contain Hoffman as well, Penrith are a long way to having a fine Friday night.
So what if the Broncos have a seven day break and the Panthers only five? Five days on a high after a win in Auckland just might be handy with the short turnaround. I expect that most punters will place their money on the Brisbane side. Most Panther fans will be confident their side can come away in their final home game of 2013 with the two competition points.