Brendan Wood previews the clash between the Penrith Panthers and the Manly Sea Eagles at Panthers Stadium to kick off the start of a bye shortened round 12.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Panthers have really struggled for wins in recent times and find themselves in 15th position on the ladder after a horrendous run of losses. The good news is they found a way to win their matchup against the Eels last week 16-10 to take the first step in getting their disappointing season back on track.
Manly Sea Eagles
Manly have been a difficult team to predict this season. Over the past month they haven’t managed to back up any of their wins and have a followed a WLWL pattern. Last week they were comfortably beaten 36-18 by the Titans in their own backyard, so if they continue with their recent pattern, they should be in for a big performance this week.
The Panthers welcome back James Maloney from injury at halfback in place of Nathan Cleary who is out on Origin duty. Centre duo Dean Whare and Waga Blake are both out injured, with Isaah Yeo returning to the side to take one spot and Brent Naden filling the other.
Panthers squad: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Isaah Yeo 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. James Maloney 8. James Tamou 9. Sione Katoa 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Frank Winterstein 13. James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 14. Mitch Kenny 15. Tyrell Fuimaono 16. Moses Leota 17. Tim Grant. Reserves: 18. Hame Sele 19. Kaide Ellis 20. Caleb Aekins 21. Liam Martin
Manly Sea Eagles
For Manly Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans will be away on Origin duty, which sees Cade Cust retain his spot in the halves for another week and Corey Waddell move to lock. Brad Parker is out with Abbas Miski coming onto the wing in his place, and Reuben Garrick moving into the centres.
Sea Eagles squad: 1. Brendan Elliot 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Reuben Garrick 5. Abbas Miski 6. Cade Cust 7. Kane Elgey 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Corey Waddell. Interchange: 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka. Reserves: 18. Zach Dockar-Clay 19. Jade Anderson 20. Haumole Olakauatu 21. Lloyd Perrett
HEAD TO HEAD
These two sides have not played each other yet this year, and their last meeting was back in round 20 of last season, when the Panthers were able to record a remarkable comeback victory from 24-6 down to sneak home 28-24. Head to head the Panthers hold the slight edge in recent times, winning 17 out of the 32 total games played between the two. In Penrith however the Panthers have been a little more dominant, as Manly have only managed to win on five occasions from 15 games at Panthers Stadium.
The battle of the halfbacks, James Maloney vs Kane Elgey. Two players who have a lot to prove, and both needing to step up in the absence of some Origin stars. Maloney is returning from injury just at the right time, as the Panthers need him to steer the ship in the absence of Nathan Cleary. He will have to be better than he has been so far this season. He currently leads the NRL in missed tackles (56) and penalties (13). Maloney also missed out on Origin selection this year, so the Panthers will be hoping that snubbing will motivate him to prove to the selectors that he’s not over the hill and can still play Origin calibre footy.
Kane Elgey has had to step up into the chief playmaker role for the Sea Eagles with two of their biggest attacking weapons sidelined in Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic. For the most part he has showed that he can shoulder the playmaking load and has been impressive in striking up a combination with Cade Cust in recent weeks. The fact Manly sit in sixth position on the ladder after 11 rounds with Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic on the sidelines shows that he is handling the extra responsibilities well.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 30th of May
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Kick-off: 7:50pm AEST
Referees: Ben Cummins, Peter Gough
WHO WILL WIN?
Both teams need a win for different reasons. Manly are looking to keep their position in the top eight, and Penrith are looking to continue building momentum after getting an unlikely win last week against the Eels. The loss of Jake Trbojevic will be a big one for Manly, and his absence gives a slight edge to Penrith in this one. The Panthers are back at home this week and will be very keen not to let their fans down again after some embarrassing performances of late. Panthers by 2.