New-look Panthers primed to keep streak alive

Penrith will be without seven Origin stars against the Wests Tigers on Friday, but Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has faith in his new-look team to continue the club’s record winning streak.

The ladder-leading Panthers have Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Brian To’o, Api Koroisau and Kurt Capewell all unavailable for the Tigers clash due to Origin duties.

Prop Moses Leota is also sidelined after copping a high tackle suspension.

In-form centre Matt Burton will steer Penrith from five-eighth alongside Tyrone May in the halves, while big guns like Stephen Crichton, James Fisher-Harris and Viliame Kikau remain in the side.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is confident the likes of Matt Burton will perform while Penrith’s Origin stars are away. Picture: Nathan Hopkins / NRL PhotosSource:The Daily Telegraph

Dylan Edwards, making his return from a hamstring injury, will play fullback, pushing Crichton back to his familiar home in the centres.

The Panthers will unveil two debutants, prop Lindsay Smith and backrower Izack Tago, but Cleary has complete confidence the club’s hardworking ethos will shine through against the Tigers as they attempt to win 13-straight to start the season.

“It is a great challenge and test of culture in our systems, and it is a great opportunity for some of these guys,” Cleary said.

“We’ve got guys making their debut and others who haven’t had a lot of first grade, so it is super-exciting.

“I actually did the maths the other day and I think we’ve got about 600 NRL games in this team.

“I think about a thousand is pretty low, so yeah probably (the most inexperienced), but we are a young team anyway.

“It was always going to be the mentality of having a squad that was going to see us through the season, rather than just the top team.

“But they all know the system and they all know their job, so I’m just really excited to see how they go.”

Cleary will rely heavily on players like Edwards, who have the big-game experience.

“We love having Dylan on the team any week, but this week was definitely timely, so it is great news,” he said.

“I feel confident in many of the replacements who have already done the job before.”

Jarome Luai is one of seven Panthers selected in Origin squads this season. Photo: Jason McCawley / Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

Cleary is also thrilled to have so many Penrith players selected in Origin, even if it depletes his NRL team.

“It is a really big milestone for our club,” he said.

“The size of these representations are only reserved for the really successful clubs in the past.

“The Brisbane Broncos, the Storm, Roosters, Dragons and those sorts of teams.

“It is not just on the boys who made it, and thoroughly deserve it, but the whole club.

“It is incredibly proud times.”

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