Rising Penrith star Wade Graham may have to concede his five-eighth position to Travis Burns in the early rounds, with the talented pivot set to have his shoulder checked out after more problems in early trials.
Still only 19, Graham arrived in the Panthers side nearly 2 years ago and along with Lachlan Coote has proved a handy player, bringing confidence well above his years.
With the arrival of livewire Travis Burns to the Panthers fold in 2010 – the race for the five-eighth spot was always going to be an interesting one.
There is no doubting the ability of Burns. The former Manly and Cowboys no.6 boasts great footwork and plenty of options in attack and despite his smaller size, has impressive defensive technique in the line.
It seems attitude has been the only thing holding Burns back. While most halves come with some cheekiness, Burns brings it in bucketloads and can be guilty of being a hothead at times. Overstepping the mark has cost him penalties in the past and previous teams have been forced to move him along.
But after some hot trial game form, Burns really stamped his mark for Penrith.
Now with Wade Graham facing possible time on the sidelines with shoulder issues, Burns gets first crack at pivot and going on current form, there is little chance the firebrand no.6 will give up his spot easily.
Penrith Panthers Profile:
Year entered premiership: 1967
Premierships: 2 â€“ 1991, 2003
Finishes over the past three years: 2009 â€“ 11th; 2008 â€“ 12th; 2007 â€“ 16th (last)
Coach: Matthew Elliott
Captain: Petero Civoniceva
Gains: David Simmons (Sharks), Kevin Kingston (Eels), Adrian Purtell (Raiders), Nigel Plum (Raiders), Travis Burns (Cowboys), Daine Laurie (Wests Tigers), Ray Nasso (Eels, NYC)
Losses: Paul Aiton (Sharks), Geoff Daniela (Wests Tigers), Junior Tia Kilifi (Bulldogs), Adam Woolnough (retired), Junior Moors (Wests Tigers)
Key Player: Luke Lewis is the most crucial of Penrithâ€™s five internationals. Playing lock, he does a mountain of work in defence, and in attack he plays as a second five-eighth.
Rising Star: Sam McKendry is as big as they come at 188cm and 117kgs. The giant prop, who has excelled in the Toyota Cup competition, is ready to earn a permanent place in the Panthersâ€™ NRL squad as Petero Civonicevaâ€™s apprentice.
Best team: Lachlan Coote, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Brad Tighe, Adrian Purtell, Wade Graham, Luke Walsh, Petero Civoniceva, Masada Iosefa, Tim Grant, Frank Pritchard, Trent Waterhouse, Luke Lewis. Interchange: Kevin Kingston, Matt Bell, Sam McKendry, Daine Laurie.
Betting: Centrebet $21, TAB SportsBet $21.