The Panthers can kiss finals goodbye if they don’t get the win against the Roosters on Saturday. Jem Nash previews…
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a bit of a mid season slump, the Roosters are looking back to their best heading into finals. James Tedesco is in ominous form, and all their combinations seem to be clicking. While the Storm are the clear favourites, the Roosters are looking a very good chance to win back to back premierships.
After winning seven straight games through the middle of the season, the Panthers have slumped back out of the eight on the back of four losses in their last five games. It doesn’t get any easier this week against the Roosters. It’s a simple equation for the mountain men, if they don’t win, their 2019 season is over.
Cooper Cronk and Boyd Cordner are out with injury, with Drew Hutchison coming into the side at halfback. Latrell Mitchell returns to the side after missing last week with a calf injury in place of Billy Smith.
Sydney Roosters squad: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Brett Morris, 6 Luke Keary, 25 Drew Hutchison, 8 Jared Warea-Hargreaves, 9 Sam Verrills, 10 Isaac Liu, 11 Angus Crichton, 12 Mitchell Aubusson, 13 Victor Radley Interchange: 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Nat Butcher, 17 Siosuia Taukeiaho Reserves: 18 Billy Smith, 20 Asu Kepaoa
Mitchell Kenny has been ruled out after injuring his elbow at training through the week, with Wayde Egan coming into the side in his place. Jarome Luai returns to the side on the bench while Billy Burns will also make his debut.
Penrith Panthers squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Stephen Crichton, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 18 Wayde Egan, 10 Moses Leota, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Liam Martin, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Jarome Luai, 15 Spencer Leniu, 16 Billy Burns, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard Reserves: 19 Sione Katoa, 20 Hame Sele
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers and Roosters met earlier this season, with the Panthers earning a hard fought 19-10 victory back in round 13. While Luke Keary, Mitchell and Jake Friend were absent in that clash, it should still give the Panthers confidence the can make it two from two in 2019.
With James Maloney’s time at the Panthers almost at an end, it’s time for him to step up and deliver his side a win when they need it most. Maloney was nowhere near his best last week in their loss to the Cowboys, but if Panthers are to have any chance of featuring in finals this season, he must be the man to lead them there.
For the Roosters, the majority of the playmaking responsibilities fall on the shoulders of Maloney’s opposite number in Luke Keary. With Cronk out and his replacement in Hutchison playing in just his seventh game in the NRL, Keary has to step up and be that guy. Luckily for the Roosters, he showed he was more than capable of doing that in last year’s grand final when Cronk played severely injured.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, August 31
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Referee: Henry Perenara, Jon Stone
WHO WILL WIN?
After a mid season resurgence, the Panthers look a far cry from the side that won seven games on the trot. On the other hand, the Roosters are finding their best form at the most important time in the season. They should be far too strong at home.
Roosters by 14