After a scorching start to the season and looking like the unit the Penrith faitful had been promised over Christmas the road has been a tough one since Round 2. A seemingly endless stream of injuries put the Panthers on tilt physically, while Corey Oates seemed to break their hearts in Round 9 as the kind of commitment they showed that night has been missing ever since.
The injury toll has been undeniable with Wallace, Segeyaro, Moylan, Soward, Idris, Mansour and Whare all spending significant time on the sidelines. But since the trip to Brisbane it has been the commitment in defence and the lack of pride that has been shown that is most frustrating. In games against the Sea-Eagles, Eels, Storm and Bulldogs the Panthers have been down by at least 10-nil to start the match, a big reason why they are finding it hard to win. The play-from behind mentality has meant desperate, mistake riddled football. The games against the Bulldogs and Eels in particular were cases of them leaving too much to do at the back-end rather than being afforded the luxury of controlled football of which Wallace and Soward are masters in.
The attacking linchpin, Matt Moylan, is out for at least another 4-6 weeks and while their attack may splutter, their defence needs to be better, especially when opening matches. The key for the Panthers is Soward and Cartwright. If the team can start defending, the points will roll of the backs of those two. Soward needs confidence. He just needs to play his natural game and he will lay on tries. At the moment he is playing under physical and mental duress but get some wins under the belt and he will only get better with the confidence. Soward's best plays occur when he is playing with confidence.
Cartwright is confident. Over the last three weeks he has virtually been the Panthers attack with three tries and an assist. He needs to get involved in the contest as much as possible. While it would be good to have him on both sides of the field, Elijah Taylor seems too valuable in his position of lock. The young Panthers forward has a big future at the foot of the mountains and should the Panthers reach the finals he will have to be one of their best.