Panthers unearth another Wade Graham

Almost six years after watching local junior Wade Graham leave the foot of the mountains, Penrith have unearthed a rookie replica in Tyrone May.

That’s the belief of a number of current Panthers stars following May’s phenomenal ascension to first grade since his NRL debut last month.

The Mt Druitt junior has played a major role in extending the NRL’s hottest winning streak to seven by either scoring or setting up a clutch try in each of their past three victories.

The only question about May is not about talent, but in what jumper he wears it in.

“There’s a lot of talk about that, but I reckon he’d do a good job at back row. He’d probably turn into a Wade Graham-type as he develops,” halfback Nathan Cleary said.

“But at the moment he’s doing a job anywhere and he’s just a good asset to the team.”

Star front-rower James Tamou, who praised coach Anthony Griffin’s decision to keep May on the bench last week, liked Cleary’s comparison.

“He’s skilful like Wado and obviously he can play in the middle there,” Tamou said.

“He’s definitely not a spot player. He does a job well there defensively. He loves all the gritty stuff, he loves trying to get it over the opposition. It’s a perfect comparison.”

After handing May his debut when Matt Moylan was injured in round 19, Griffin has once again turned to the 21-year-old for Sunday’s crucial clash with St George Illawarra.

Moylan has been ruled out until the finals with another hamstring injury.

And while key players in fullback Dylan Edwards, May and Cleary combine for just 55 games between them, Cleary insists they have plenty of chemistry behind them.

The trio are part of 11 players in this week’s line-up that were part of the club’s 2013 or 2015 under-20s premiership-winning line-ups.

“The combination between me, Dyl, T-May, Sione (Katoa) and Corey (Harawira-Naera) on that edge, it was already there,” Cleary said.

“Now it’s building a combination with the rest of the team and keep getting better each week.”

While the club has prided itself on the strength of its junior nursery, Tamou said he was surprised by their ability to instantly perform once arriving on the big stage.

“(I’m) very surprised. You can just about put any of them in the first grade side and they’ll do a good job. That just goes to show how well the junior base is here at Penrith,” he said.

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