June 11th, 5:30pm
Goodbye Gallop, Hello Ivan! We’re up against the Pamfers in probably the least anticipated of Monday Night Football clashes in recent times. The Warriors travel to the foot of the mountains to take on their old mentor and his flavoured milk powered club. It’s 9th vs 14th, yet only 2 competition points separate the teams. Make no mistake, this will be the definition of mediocrity.
Recent Form: The Pamfers are coming off a win and a bye, surprising a few people with their 22-4 win over the Sea Eagles in round 12. It was never going to be an easy task, but Ivan seems to be making inroads at Penrith – aided (or hindered?) by a disease-ridden Gus Gould. Either way, you’ve got to admire Ivan’s insatiable desire to take on lost causes, I wish him well.
As for the Warriors, it’s halfway through the season and I give us a solid ‘C’ so far. What can I say about the Storm game? Surprisingly, we were the quicker of the 2 teams out of the blocks to take a 12-0 lead early on. From there, it was one way traffic. The clinical Melbourne side simply hung onto the ball and ran us down. I suppose we didn’t get beaten by as much as I thought we would, but the 2nd half was simply woeful. ‘Directionless’ is the word that sprung to mind, and I’m going to level some criticism at the coach.
Ivan toiled for years to turn our flash-in-the-pan style of football into a team that played with structure combined with a natural flair. So far this season we so often look like a directionless rabble. For mine, Johnson and Mateo seem the most out-of-sorts, neither look quite sure of the style of football the team is after. The emphasis on defence that had been the flavour of seasons gone by seems to be well and truly priority #2. While I like Bluey, listening to him talk I sometimes wonder whether he has the mental capacity to understand when a change in tactic/emphasis is needed (and yes I mean more than just swapping Manu to the opposite wing for no apparent reason).
Players to watch: If the Panthers had the worst (or close to) squad on paper at the start of the season, then the absence of Lewis, Jennings and Grant makes this team look like a who’s who of the NSW cup. Of what’s remaining in their lineup - Josh Mansour has impressed me over the past few weeks. We know what to expect from the likes of Walsh and Coote – an over reliance on their kicking game.
As far as the Warriors are concerned, well I suggest keeping an eye on the trainers and physio pacing the sideline in anticipation of our next injury. Steve Rapira returns at prop in place of his brother, and I’m guessing the collective aim is to get through a whole game. On a more serious note though, I’ll be interested to see how he shapes up in his new found position. Personally I’ve never been a massive fan, though perhaps between he and his brother they can make up 1 complete NRL player.
The man on everyone’s mind, lips (and hips) however is Kevin Locke. How we have missed Kevin at the back. It’s been a while since a fullback has completed 80 mins in the number 1 jersey and we’re all praying Kevin can survive the 80 (not least of all James Maloney).
My prediction: Don’t expect to be enthralled. Both teams are desperate for a win to keep their dwindling seasons alive. The Panthers are Origin hit, the Warriors aren’t. We’re favourites heading into this clash and rightly so. I expect a victory, but an unconvincing one. Anything less and we’re up shit’s creek. Warriors 26 – 18.