Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is likely to start veteran pair Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace for their NRL season-opener against Canberra despite showing rusty trial form.
Whiz kid Te Maire Martin has been the Panthers’ best playmaker of the summer, while new captain Matt Moylan has been earmarked as the future five-eighth, however neither will be running the show in round one.
Griffin is instead leaning towards his experienced duo in Soward and Wallace, who seemingly showed enough in Saturday’s 22-8 trial defeat to Parramatta to earn first crack against the Raiders.
“I thought in general we were building nicely into the game,” Griffin said of the duo’s outing against the Eels.
It was the first time since last May that Penrith’s key trio in Moylan, Soward and Wallace played alongside each other, and it showed.
Wallace in particular, in just his second game since a second-straight knee reconstruction, was roughed up by Parramatta’s bruising forwards and rushed a number of his plays.
Moylan and Soward were also a little out of sync, although the latter did lay on a try for winger Josh Mansour in the first half.
Wallace and Soward, who underwent back surgery during the pre-season, were substituted on the hour-mark, while Moylan played out the full 80.
“(Wallace) was good. He got nearly 60 minutes and it was great,” Griffin said.
“And Moylan is still obviously very rusty, but he got 80 minutes and he feels really good for getting through that now.
“So it’s just all building nice. From a big picture point of view, we got a real nice tough hitout there tonight and we showed up in the important areas. We’ve just got to start building our mindset in attack a bit better.”
A streamlined Waqa Blake was easily Penrith’s best against the Eels, and is in line to take on the Raiders in place of first-choice centre Dean Whare, who’s in doubt with a calf strain.
Griffin said the Kiwi representative would have to run this week to prove his fitness.
Long-serving prop Sam McKendry was a surprise starter in NSW Cup after a slow start to the year but responded strongly to his demotion against Wentworthville.
“He’s had an interrupted pre-season with calf strains (but) I thought he was really strong in the Cup. And he played a fair bit of time so we’ll have a look at him as well,” Griffin said.
“I thought the other guys went a bit better than him against the Bulldogs but he responded really well today. He played a lot of time and he had some good quality about him, particularly defensively.”