What’s going wrong at Penrith? There’s no in-fighting. No major issues that you could blame for their poor start.
But what has been highlighted in the club’s series of disappointing performances over the opening 10 rounds is a flaw in the culture.
To put it simply, it’s a club of individuals.
Ivan Cleary’s greatest challenge at Penrith is instilling a culture of teamwork across the organisation.
It’s the foundation of which he has built all his teams. His motto has long been “the star of the team is the team”.
It’s how he’s always done business.
But it’s not the way things are at Penrith at the moment.
You could see it in their performances last year, relying on individual brilliance to snatch victories after giving up big starts.
Their roster is filled with players on long-term deals, many of whom have struggled to play their best football after signing those contracts.
Even the club was run by an individual, with Phil Gould calling the shots at the club up until Cleary’s arrival in the pre-season.
When Anthony Griffin was coach, the common criticism was he wouldn’t delegate to his coaching staff – taking it all on himself.
Teamwork hasn’t been something that has been synonymous with Penrith, but Cleary wants to change that.
It’s why the coach was disappointed when Gould re-signed a player without consulting the recruitment and retention committee that had been formed.
Cleary has always been a rebuild coach. Some may argue it’s a cop-out to suggest this Panthers roster needs rebuilding.
But their underwhelming performances in recent years, as well a tendency to start slow in matches – points to a mental frailty in their attitudes.
Some at the club believe there’s a sense of entitlement that needs to change.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is likely to be the victim of Penrith’s woes. While he has been dropped due to poor form, the club also used it as a test to see how he responds.
Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard reacted in the manner the club was hoping to see when they were dropped last week, refusing to kick stones and earning a recall to the NRL team.
After Watene-Zelezniak was dropped, his manager Tyran Smith requested permission from the club to talk to rivals.
As revealed by NRL.com a fortnight ago, the Eels have been in negotiations with his manager about luring him to the club to play right centre.
Penrith have since given Watene-Zelezniak permission to accept offers elsewhere, but the Eels are waiting on Smith to return from England before they can begin negotiations.
The Wests Tigers, who were close to signing him the last time he was off contract, would love to have him. Especially considering Michael Maguire named him captain of the Kiwi side.
But the Tigers would need to move a number of players on to accommodate his arrival. The Cowboys are the other team that have had conversations with Watene-Zelezniak’s manager.
Keary gets rep backing from poll
Part two of the NRL.com Players’ Poll comes out on Friday. Interestingly, Sydney Roosters playmaker Luke Keary has been voted the overwhelming winner of the player who most deserves to make his State of Origin debut this year.
Keary is considered a near certainty to debut for the Blues in game one at Suncorp Stadium.
Other questions the players answered in Part 2 include should the NRL introduce a transfer window, how should drawn matches be decided, best sledger, best stepper, hardest hitter and whether the NRL should increase the number of teams in the competition.
Eels set sights on Moses
Parramatta have turned their attention to re-signing Mitchell Moses. They are hopeful of him agreeing to a three-year deal, but the retirement of Cooper Cronk has opened the door for the Roosters to have a late lash.
The Roosters previously thought they had signed Moses the last time he was off contract, only for him to pull out at the 11th hour. But don’t underestimate the part his former Wests Tigers teammate James Tedesco could play if the Roosters give Moses a second chance.
Brown back on track
Parramatta are hopeful Dylan Brown is three weeks away from returning from a back injury.
However the club won’t hesitate in delaying his return should he experience any discomfort in the lead-up to his return.
Aaron nearly out of the woods
Cronulla prop Aaron Woods is back up and running after a lengthy stint on the sidelines. Woods took his first run on the club’s Alter G Zero Gravity treadmill this week. He’s still at least two weeks away from returning.
Ryan’s greyhound has gift of speed
Ryan Papenhuyzen has had plenty to cheer about on the field in recent weeks, but he’s also kicking goals off the field. Papenhuyzen’s greyhound, Gary’s Gift, won at Bathurst on Monday. It comes after the horse named Addo-Carr claimed victory on the Gold Coast in the same week.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.