There’s plenty of hype around the Panthers this season. Not just at the NRL level, but right through from the Harold Matts, to the top grade.
Penrith; it’s become a place that doesn’t just hope for results. It expects them.
It’s important that we train hard, play hard and be a hard team to beat. Winning just doesn't ‘happen’.
The side of 2017 is much different to the one that we claimed (VB NSW Cup) premiership honours with in 2014 – but I’m every bit as confident we have what it takes to be very competitive and then who knows where it will take us.
The team of ’14 were very experienced and collected. This year, we’ve a much younger squad, but with some serious skill about them.
Of course, there’s a few of the older heads like Mitch Rein and Michael Oldfield who bring with them that NRL experience. But looking at the bigger picture, we have very few who have had a serious taste of the top grade.
This year, there’s plenty of young talent. Guys like Dylan Edwards who I think has got a huge future in front of him. So too blokes like Jed Cartwright, and our captain Sione Katoa. They don’t shy away from the hard work. That’ll help take them to where they want to be, playing NRL.
Looking around at other clubs, I don’t think there’d be many other Intrust Super Premiership NSW teams with such a young a squad. But that's exciting. It’s what the Penrith Panthers are about and it's a challenge we look to embrace.
Looking to this week’s clash with Wyong, and what a match it promises to be.
We’ve tapered our training back this week. We’ve played on some heavy tracks the last few.
We were disappointed with the result against Mounties last week. We had our chances, but didn’t take them. We didn’t handle the wet conditions well, I thought but full credit to the Mounties. They were just too good.
But there’s no better way, and there’s no better challenge, to get back into the winners’ circle this weekend than with a tough hit-out against the Roos.
It’s only been a month or so to start the new season, but I think that they’re the team to beat. In terms of competition favourites, they’d be right up there with the picks of the bunch.
Me and ‘Rip’ (Wyong coach, Robert Taylor) go back a long way. We’ve worked together at Newcastle, we’ve coached against each other for a long time, too. We’re good mates off the field (despite the fact he never shouts dinner or beers whenever we catch up. It explains why he lives in a giant castle overlooking the beach on the central coast).
Seriously though he is a great coach who has had enormous success. Coaching against Rip always brings out a better coach in myself. There would not be a more successful lower grade coach than Rip. I’ve an enormous amount of respect for him not just as a coach but as a person. (Just wish he'd put his hand in his pocket every now and then).
I’ve learned plenty in this game, a lot of that from Rip.
I’ve long held ambitions to be an NRL coach. I still do. I wouldn’t be in the position I am If I didn’t. I’d never say never to coaching first grade, if I felt the right opportunity came about.
But you can’t be coaching with the mindset of worrying about being a future NRL coach.
I coach for the now. I coach to develop young talent. Luckily enough for myself, and for the club, we have plenty of it.
And it’s up to us to show it throughout 2017, consistently at that. We’ll have to show it against Wyong this week, believe me.