Matt Elliot and the Penrith Panthers
By Peter Roy

The Penrith Panthers face the Parramatta Eels tonight at CUA Stadium Penrith, and 2007 NRL has seen the Panthers play a new style – under the guidance of Matthew Elliot.

For as long as most of us can remember the Panthers backline played an adlib style of Rugby League that was regularly able to put on massive amounts of points – quickly.

The likes of Reece Wesser, Presto, Lewis and Rooney were popping up everywhere – trailing the big forwards and collecting the spoils.

After winning the NRL Grand Final in 2003, the Panthers struggled to be consistent in their usual fashion and we only see glimpses of their known brilliance. Obviously losing guys like Sattler, Lang and Girdler would hurt anyone. However there was a sense that the group as a whole was a little stale.

With a new direction needed, and Matt Elliot coming on board from the Raiders – it seems to have injected the lifeblood the Panthers needed. Full respect to John Lang, he is a well respected and experienced coach – but every team can do with change to freshen things up and keep sharp.

Many observers had Elliot pegged as an average coach as he battled away in Canberra with limited cattle, but the Penrith management saw the potential and swooped to sign Elliot up for 2007 and beyond.

Unlike many other coaches who spend hours studying the video of opposition teams, finding weaknesses and setting game plans to exploit this – Elliot is possibly in the mould of the older school mentors such as Jack Gibson and Warren ‘Wok’ Ryan.

Simple and effective tactics such as securing possession, “The Opposition Can’t Win Without the Ball” mentality and “Keeping the opposition pinned deep in their own half, means they can’t get near our tryline” – These old Gibson lines make plenty of sense in today’s game of inches. A penalty can absolutely change a match, just like a dropped ball, a charge down or poor kick can. They all relate back to ‘possession and field possession’. The best team in the world, cannot win if they don’t have the ball.

Elliot is also big on consistent trailing runners, and support play. If every person in the team does their job well, success will surely come – is his mentality.

With the Panthers showing some patches of ill-discipline in their games this year you can imagine the frustration of Elliot as he watches on. Unlike Wayne Bennett and Brian Smith – Elliot wears his heart on his sleeve and can be seen riding the emotion of the play on the sideline.

The ‘keep it simple’ style Elliot has employed has Panthers players relishing the new found structure and everyone understands their role and knows what to do and when.

This method is sure to be refined even further as the season goes on, and it looks to be an exciting time for the Panthers.

NRL News tips the Panthers to win the local Debry tonight.

By ricky

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