The Mountain Men rise up

Jay Ross Roar Guru

By Jay Ross, Jay Ross is a Roar Guru

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    It’s official, the Penrith Panthers are the real deal.

    I’ve been enthusiastically talking up the power and finesse of the St.George Illawarra Dragons and the Melbourne Storm, but it’s time they took a back seat. Even though the Panthers sit in second place, for some reason they’ve snuck under my radar.

    With a horrendous injury toll, I’ve been expecting them to fall, but with Maloney at the helm, their star keeps rising.

    So what did we learn from their convincing defeat of the Tigers on Thursday night in front of over 15,000 home fans?

    1. Nathan Cleary is back
    With his knee heavily strapped, the young Cleary was composed as usual and had some brilliant touches. This included a perfectly placed short kick early in the game to create the Panthers’ first try. You’d have to think that he only needs to stay injury-free in the next game to grab the NSW Blues halfback position.

    Nathan Cleary

    Nathan Cleary of the Panthers (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

    Cleary outshone the Tigers’ Luke Brooks who is another halfback candidate on Freddy Fitler’s shortlist. Although it was difficult for Brooks to get into the game with his side fighting the monster Panther pack, as well as a mountain of second half penalties that had the Tigers constantly on the back foot.

    2. Maloney/Cleary look good for the Blues
    The Penrith halves combination compliment each other perfectly. Cleary is structured and composed, which allows the creative Maloney to play what’s in front of him. Origin has always been about club combinations, so this should work in favour of the Panthers’ duo.

    3. Tyrone Peachey can’t be denied
    No matter what position the versatile Peachey plays, he thrives with the ball in hand. His impressive display in the centres against the Tigers should help cement his position as a bench player on Freddy’s Blues team.

    4. The power of James Tamou
    The ex-Blues and Australian prop has had an average time at the Panthers since switching from his beloved Cowboys. But during the last few games he looks free of injury and is returning to his damaging best.

    The 114kg prop made big metres against the Tigers and looked a threat throughout his long stint from the bench. Is he suddenly a chance for Freddy’s bench?

    5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is the answer at fullback
    With the injury of young fullback, Dylan Edwards, we witnessed the ongoing rise of Watene-Zelezniak as a genuine star in the fullback position. He was man of the match against the Tigers, running an impressive twenty-one times for 248 metres.

    These are just five reasons the Panthers put the Tigers to the sword. This sets up a mouth-watering meeting in Round 12 when the Panthers show their true credentials against the high-flying, ladder-leading Dragons.

    Who is going to be victorious?

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • May 18th 2018 @ 8:02am
      Paul said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      There’s no way I’d risk Cleary in game one of SOO with a knee injury still under repair. You can bet the Queenslanders will target him if he plays, as should have happened to Thurston in game 2 last year. If he gets injured again, not only is the side down to 16 players in a SOO. but he might be put for a longer period. If he’s 100%, by all means play him, but don’t take a risk

      Panthers have had a great run against sides outside the 8, Jay, but their real test starts in round 12 as you suggest and things don’t get easier for them in the run home.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 8:38am
      acermark said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      Very true that Penrith have had a pretty soft draw so far (Parramatta twice, Titans et al), the jury is still very much out for me if they can last well into September.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:13am
      souvalis said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      Regardless of the draw they played with a lot of determination last night which is a credit to the club in how they’ve turned off field events around..they’re big,fast,tough and agile and the coach has everyone in form,even those filling in are playing hard and confidently…they desperately want to win and they’ll need to take that into next week ,the true barometer of how they’re travelling.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:31am
      Matt said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Just four teams have made it to Finals Wk 2 or better, 3 of the last 4 years.

      Those are Melbourne, North Queensland, Brisbane, and…. Penrith. Many if not most of you reading this would not be aware of this fact. Two Capital City teams, a team representing half a State, and the furthest metropolitan Suburb of Sydney.

      4 more wins out of the next 13 games will give them a finals spot, 6 or 7 wins out of 13 will comfortably see them finish top 4. That would then have them making it to Finals Wk 2, 4 times in the last 5 years, and they then may be only 1 of 2 teams that will do this.

      My point in all of this is, that Penrith are only just coming onto the radar for some people, for others they still aren’t rated in the top half a dozen. This team has been consistently been there or thereabouts for a number of years. Any success at the end of this season should only shock those that are not fair dinkum footy fans. Those that point to titles being the difference will no doubt also know that Broncos cabinet also gathers dust and yet they are always held in high regard for their finals berth consistency. If Penrith go all the way in 2018, please don’t be so unknowledgable as to say it was a flash in the pan.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 2:47pm
        jimmmy said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        Matt very good point . I had the Panthers in my top four from the start for two reasons , their halves and their depth.
        One of the best half combos opin the NRL . Just so important to long term success.
        I didn’t realise they would need that depth so soon but they have copped with an horrific injury count as though nothing has changed. I see no reason not to keep them in my top four.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:44am
      acermark said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      Penrith has had such little impact in the finals in recent years that I didn’t realise that stat!

    • May 18th 2018 @ 10:41am
      kk said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      All good points, Jay. DW-Z looks confident. Hope it continues.

      Agree 100% with Paul re Cleary/ SOO.

      Penrith’s PA and PC stats are worth a gander.

      Atop the PA’s with 104, indicating they may have some friends at court.

      The PC’s are a worry. Top of the list with 116. Correct that and the team has energy
      conserved to put it on the scoreboard. Bad habits are a no-no come September.

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