Penrith skipper Luke Lewis expects recalled Newcastle forward Willie Mason to come out with a point to prove in Monday night’s important clash with the Knights at Hunter Stadium.
Mason, who has not played in the NRL since his 2010 stint with North Queensland, has been in rugby league exile since he left English Super League club Hull after just six games at the start of last year and finishing the season with French rugby union side Toulon.
But that doesn’t concern Lewis, who saw enough from the former Test and NSW representative in last week’s NSW Cup game to be convinced Mason has something to offer Wayne Bennett’s Knights.
“He played great footy last week and he’s got a point to prove on Monday night,” Lewis said.
“He’s going to be out for a big one and we’re not expecting anything less from him.
“We’re expecting a typical Willie Mason game – tough, hard and straight up.
“We’ve got to be ready for it and not take a backward step.”
Mason has been handed his latest rugby league lifeline to bolster a Newcastle forward pack struggling to make an impact on games, but the Panthers have a few problems of their own.
They have conceded consecutive 30-0 scorelines, against Manly and Wests Tigers, and have not scored a single point in their past 180 minutes.
Lewis, in his first season as skipper, admits it has been a tough time but says the points will come soon.
“The last two games have been really disappointing for us,” he said.
“Winning two of seven games, it’s just not good enough.
“I know all the boys are burning and really ripping in at training, hopefully the tide turns soon.
“We’ve had some opportunities the last couple of weeks to score some tries but we just couldn’t finish them off.
“It will come.”
While the players are confident their hard work is about to turn into points on the field, coach Ivan Cleary has tried to give them a little nudge by restructuring the lineup.
Regular five-eighth Travis Burns will start at hooker, with youngster Blake Austin given the No.6 jersey, while gun centre Michael Jennings returns from a pectoral muscle strain.
The Knights will also welcome back centre Wes Naiqama, who will play his first game since suffering a knee injury in round three against Brisbane.