Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has given his strongest indication yet that he will resist shifting Matt Moylan in a Darren Lockyer-style move to the halves and keep him in the No.1.
The new Panthers captain played his first game in almost nine months in Saturday’s 24-20 trial win over Canterbury, starting the game in his customary fullback position.
But Moylan then shifted to five-eighth for the second quarter, and had the stuffing knocked out of him by Bulldogs dump truck Greg Eastwood, hunching over for a few minutes to regain re-locate his lungs.
The 24-year-old signed off at halftime, completing a 40-minute stint that Griffin described as “patchy”.
“I’d probably leave him at fullback at the moment and just see how everyone else pulls up. He’s come back from a really bad ankle injury,” he said.
“The main thing with Matt is he got through that and he just needs some time on the field, we’ll give him a little bit more next week and hopefully he’ll get a few of the kinks out and be ready for round one.”
The real question for the new Panthers coach is who’ll partner Jamie Soward in the halves.
Former captain Peter Wallace came through unscathed in his return from his second straight knee reconstruction with a 20-minute stint, however young playmaker Te Maire Martin made his case for an NRL debut with an eye-catching first impression against the Dogs.
His team down 14-6 late in the first half, the 20-year-old showed elite speed in a 40-metre dash just before the break, then laid on two tries in the space of three minutes upon resumption for the lead.
Griffin dodged questions on whether the 20-year-old was ready for first grade.
Asked if he was a realistic chance for round one, he said “I thought he was very good tonight. He warmed into the game. He’s got a lot of strike in him. He’s a good boy, so I just thought I was really happy with him.”
Griffin was also coy on his plans for Wallace, who he dumped from Brisbane in 2013, then replaced him as skipper at the Panthers last month, and said he had intended to limit his minutes against the Bulldogs.
“That was always the plan, just to get him out there and get a feel again after those two knee reconstructions and give him some more time next week,” he said.
Penrith finalise their pre-season against the Eels next week before opening their season against Canberra on March 5.