There will be no ducks and drakes with the Panthers this week, with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary confirming that his seven State of Origin representatives will not be named to take on the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
The ladder leaders are six points clear at the top with eight rounds to play, so they have more than enough wiggle room to risk a loss against a Tigers team that has lost five games in a row.
There would have been a temptation to name Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Api Koroisau, Liam Martin, Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o and Jarome Luai for Sunday’s clash, but coach Cleary is confident the other players in the squad can get the job done.
It was only last year that the Tigers smashed a Panthers side missing their Origin players, but Cleary liked what he saw from his fill-in players in round 13 when they beat the Bulldogs by 12 points.
“None of them are playing. They’ve all been told to stay away for a week. I don’t want to see them,” Cleary said.
“We made that decision about a month ago.
“It was certainly confirmed after we played the Bulldogs without our Origin boys. I thought the boys that played that night did really well.
“Luckily, we’ve been able to win our games since then, so all things considered with the big build up to this game three tomorrow night and the big workload that they’ve had, they won’t get another chance to have a break.”
Cleary said Sunia Turuva would probably miss out on the 17 this week, but he was edging closer to an NRL debut after his stunning performance at fullback for Fiji a few weeks ago.
The premiership-winning coach also rubbished suggestions that he was only resting players because his side was playing the team at the bottom of the ladder with games against the Storm, Eels, Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Sharks still to come.
“They’re all tough. It’s just the time,” he said.
“I didn’t think it was worth resting them during Origin because then they’ve still got to come back, so I think it just works out best because Origin is over.
“Let them have a week off and see how they come back because there’s no guarantee that they’ll all come back ready. There’s a lot of evidence over the years that it takes guys a while to come down after an Origin series.”
Cleary also paid tribute to departing assistant Andrew Webster, who will become the Warriors head coach from next season.
“He totally deserves this opportunity,” he said.
“He’s been a coach for a long time and one of his strengths is that he never looks for any credit. I think that’s why he fits in here so well.
“I’m happy for the Warriors because I’ve still got a soft spot for them, but from a competitive point of view, it’s a bit of a bummer because I think they just got stronger.”