After a forgettable 2007, the pressure was always going to on Matt Elliott from the get-go and while this is only Round 1 and there is plenty more football to come – surely no one expected such a dramatic loss and capitulation from the Penrith team. Making what they thought were the hard decisions and refusing to resign certain players; it seems they may have cast off the wrong players and held on to some of the cancer that caused the rot last year.
You didn’t have to be an NRL Rugby League expert last year to see what the main problem with Penrith was. Quite simply, their discipline was so poor that they created enormous pressure for themselves before their opponents even got a chance to get at them. As the losing continued, the pressure built and the problems started appearing everywhere else soon after. There were long term players at war with the coach, players tapped on the shoulder and asked to leave that refused to go and everything in-between – it certainly wasn’t a happy home.
Have Penrith made enough changes? Have they made the right changes?
Craig Gower, gone. Peter Wallace, gone. Joel Clinton, gone. Brett Firman, gone. Nick Youngquest, gone.
It’s hard to argue the purchase of Petero Civoniceva, a true workhorse and someone that would naturally give his all for any NRL club that he played for; but was this player as the major signing going to be enough to get the Penrith team going in the right direction?
After the Round 1 debacle against the Broncos, it looks like Petero might need to start taking his forwards for private lessons in his backyard after the big, bulky Panthers men looked like large stationary witches hats – the Broncos running rings around them all day. After a long pre-season, maybe the build and preparation of the forward pack has come too far to be changed quickly, but certainly something needs to happen. The likes of Frank Pritchard and Tony Puletua looked big and menacing, but were cannon fodder to the smaller more mobile Brisbane forwards that were well suited to the new interchange system in the NRL for 2008.
Trying to pull all the forwards together and give his team forward direction is hooker Luke Priddis. The experienced Priddis is battling his own demons, trying to foot it with the new breed of hooker – younger, faster and possessing a big bag of tricks. The interchange rule for 2008 looks to be another problem Priddis will have to deal with. Priddis have achieved plenty in the game, but I think his age and creativity level is probably hurting the Panthers. Matt Elliott did drop Priddis at one stage last year; both personalities clashed understandably after such a selection bombshell – but it seems that maybe Elliott was right and should have stuck to his guns.
The Panthers not only have problems in the forwards. Their other major concern remains in the halves; after the departure of Craig Gower – the new combination of Joe Williams and Jarrod Sammut was thrown together. Natrually you need a forward pack going forward before the halves can be expected to weave any serious magic, but their are question marks over the mix of Williams and Sammut. This could be another area of pain for Elliott and Panthers supporters.
What else could possible go wrong?
Well, should injuries hit the Panthers in the weeks ahead – then things could get even more dire. Already facing an uphill battle after only a single Round of Rugby League – should they lose a Reece Wesser or Luke Rooney they could really feel some damaging results.
So if you’re a Panthers supporter; start pre-paring for not only a long season – but one that could be littered with pain, agony and plenty of in-fighting and sackings should things get worse. Oh well, at least Matt Elliott and the Penrith Panthers get an easier shot at redeeming themselves this week as in Round 2, they face the Raiders in Penrith which gives them a good a chance as any to get some NRL competition points.
No pressue guys.