Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has urged off-contract hooker James Segeyaro to focus on getting his legs back in the NRL before thinking about his long-term future.
Segeyaro hasn’t played since fracturing his arm in the club’s season-opening loss to Canberra, but ironically comes back against the same team for Saturday’s return clash in Bathurst.
And while the 25-year-old had recently been linked to a move away from the foot of the mountains, Griffin challenged the Panthers’ No.9 to concentrate on simply making a strong return.
“From a team point of view, he’s just got to play his role. It’s good to have him back. He had half a game in round one, so he’s virtually missed eight weeks of football,” Griffin said.
“It’s just a matter of getting some miles in his legs and getting back and getting all the basic things right for himself, but for us as a team as well.
“That’s his focus tomorrow; to get his defence right and be error-free with the ball.”
His comments on the former North Queensland rake came as he spoke glowingly of Raiders counterpart Josh Hodgson – the leader of the Dally M count after eight rounds.
“He runs them very well out of there from dummy-half – a lot like Cameron Smith does for Melbourne. He’s obviously a real key; we need to defend well against him,” Griffin said.
The Panthers’ coach confirmed the versatile Isaah Yeo would deputise for luckless centre Dean Whare, who tore his ACL at a training session during the week just as he was to come back from twin calf injuries.
Waqa Blake is also out with a hip problem.
“It leaves us a little short there, but Isaah Yeo does a good job in the centres whenever he plays there. We’ll probably lean on him to fill that hole,” Griffin said.
Either Tyrone Peachey row or rookie James Fisher-Harris is expected to start in the second row, with Sam McKendry added to the bench.
For the Raiders, injured star Blake Austin won’t be a late inclusion after being left at home.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Penrith have won 33 of their 68 clashes with Canberra, with the Raiders on 34. The only other meeting was a draw
* Canberra have won their past three matches between the two clubs, scoring at least 30 points in all of them, including round one this year in the nation’s capital
* Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker is only eight points shy of tying David Furner for most points scored for the club