After starting the season with a 12-game winning streak before now staring at a hat-trick of losses for the first time in two years, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has no regrets about resting his Origin stars.
Penrith will have all their Origin players back on deck on Friday night against the Roosters and Cleary stood by the decision to rest them from last Friday’s clash with Cronulla, which ended in a 19-18 loss via a late Shaun Johnson field goal.
Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Liam Martin and Kurt Capewell return to the run-on side to give the team a huge boost leading into the heavyweight showdown.
“Not only are they our best players but [Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo] are our two captains,” Cleary said.
“There was a few reasons [why they were rested] but I think throughout this period we’re going to play some huge games and there’s going to be big occasions … We decided that would be a good thing and they definitely look really good this week.”
Panthers v Roosters - Round 15
Nathan Cleary is feeling “pretty good” after leading NSW to a 50-6 victory in Origin I and his facial cut has healed sufficiently for him to be able to take his place on Friday at BlueBet Stadium.
“I know he feels pretty good. I think it was probably the best or certainly would be the best that he went into an Origin series… Nothing like a big victory too to make everyone happy,” his father said.
“I was very proud of him. I think he’s shown for a number of years now that he’s an Origin player in terms of the intensity that he brings. It’s fun to watch.”
To'o and Luai mic'd up
Cleary says his side’s intensity had not been high enough in their losses to the Wests Tigers and Cronulla.
“We just felt like we let ourselves down in an area that we certainly take pride in.
"There’s certainly been a bit of a lift in that area this week,” Cleary said.
“I think probably both clubs can sense that this is a big game.”
Penrith will be without damaging back-rower Viliame Kikau after he left the field in the second half of the loss to Cronulla with a hamstring problem.
“You never want players to miss games but it’s the reality of life, everyone’s going through it. We don’t have anyone with blond hair this week,” Cleary laughed.
“[Liam Martin] comes in, he’s certainly done a job plenty of times before.”
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The Roosters farewelled club legend Boyd Cordner when he announced his retirement earlier this week and Cleary expects the visitors would bring plenty of energy to the contest on Friday in the spirit of their inspirational former captain.
“There’s never a good time to get the Roosters I don’t think. They’re a club that we look up to,” Cleary said.
“It was hard news hearing about Boyd this week - they’ve probably got a little bit extra to play for.”
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