NRL 2 years ago

Panthers seek playmaker inspiration

  • Panthers seek playmaker inspiration

Few would argue there is a good football side walking - and in some cases shuffling - the corridors of Penrith Stadium, it's just a matter of getting those 17 players on the park.

The Panthers are confident of mounting a late-season NRL revival but until they can get everyone fit, at least, much will depend on the performance of their makeshift spine.

For much of the season, it has been a case of taking one step forward and two back for the luckless black cats.

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They have been battered by injuries to players in key positions and momentum has escaped their grasp.

It's much of the same against South Sydney on Friday - halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace are appearing in the same line up for just the fifth time this season.

They showed promising signs in the side's 35-12 win over the Wests Tigers this week and will play their third straight game together against South Sydney.

The Panthers have used nine different halves combinations in 14 games, with Apisai Koroisau, Isaac John, Bryce Cartwright and Will Smith also playing at six and seven.

With fullback Matt Moylan (ankle) and James Segeyaro (knee) out injured, the Panthers halves will be key to their fortunes over the next few months.

Cleary said he was pleased with the way Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, filling in at No.1 for Moylan, and back-up hooker Koroisau had grown into their roles.

And he predicted they would only improve with time on the park with Soward and Wallace.

"You can only do so much one week at a time so it's those combinations that become second nature, that's the real key," Cleary said.

"And we haven't had that throughout the year.

"Jamie and Wal have played a couple of games together now so they're starting to fall back into their combinations.

"And Dallin's picking up their traits ... we're starting to get used to Api as well.

"Another game of those guys playing together hopefully in the big moments they won't have to check each other seeing what they're gonna do."

The Panthers are one win outside the top eight in 10th however their negative points differential must be addressed with the race for the semi-finals expected to be tight.

Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said he remained wary of the Panthers, who got within one game of the grand final last year, and predicted they would rise up the table as they got troops back on deck.

"They're a quality team," Maguire said.

"Penrith have been performing and they're getting a number of players back and starting to show the form that they showed last year and earlier this season.

"We've got to make sure that we're well and truly switched on."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Since 2012 the Rabbitohs have won all four meetings between these two sides

* Souths have won seven of nine Origin-affected rounds since Michael Maguire took over as coach in 2012

* The Rabbitohs have returned to form after an early-season slump, winning five of their last seven

* Since round 9, the Panthers have had the worst attack in the competition, scoring an average of 13.8 points per game.

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