Fearsome Panthers front-rower Tim Grant has slammed talk he’s disenchanted with goings on at the foot of the mountains, declaring he “couldn’t be happier at Penrith” – and that he and his confidence-oozing teammates are ready to make a charge for the finals series.
During the past two weeks numerous media outlets reported Grant, an incumbent NSW Blues front-rower, was ready to terminate his contract and leave the Panthers, but the man himself insisted the accusations are well wide of the mark.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from but I couldn’t be happier at Penrith at the moment,” Grant, instrumental in his side’s upset victory over the premiers Melbourne last week and preparing for his 100th NRL match this weekend against the Warriors, tells NRL.com.
“I don’t know where [the rumours are] coming from – I’ve heard it as well – but there’s no-one who’s ever able to say where it’s coming from. It’s always a rumour from a third party… To be honest it’s all a load of s***.
“I’m happy at the club and as far as I’m aware the club are happy with me. I haven’t had a chat with anyone upstairs about me going anywhere or them being unhappy with me. The media and the critics can talk all they want and say I’m on the outer or I’m not happy but it’s definitely not the case.
“I’ve got three more years on my contract after this year… so as far as I’m concerned I’m here for three more years minimum… I haven’t even thought about going anywhere.”
Rumours of unrest often circulate during times of drama and controversy – and there’s certainly been no shortage of that at the Panthers in the past year.
Since releasing a host of stars and allowing others to walk away at the end of last season, coach Ivan Cleary and his team have endured an incredibly heavy injury toll in 2013. But even with the unavailability through injury of the likes of Lachlan Coote, Blake Austin, Sam McKendry and Josh Mansour, and just three victories all season, Penrith-born Grant sees a silver lining.
“Things are going really well out here,” Grant says of his team currently in 12th position.
“It’s easy from the outside to say we’re not doing too well but unless you’re in the workings of it every day, you don’t understand what progress we’ve made and the direction the club’s heading as a whole. I’m 100 per cent when I say we’re going in the right direction.
“With disappointment through injuries there’s an upside in young guys getting an opportunity and we’ve got guys who’ve really stood up – Adam Docker, Matt Moylan, guys like that who are just full of enthusiasm and playing games where they don’t look like rookies, they look like seasoned first-graders.”
The past few weeks, at least, Grant’s theory has proved correct, his team winning two out of three matches and conquering the premiers in the process. The powerhouse prop, in line for his third Blues appearance in Origin I on June 5, said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s upset 12-10 victory.
“We don’t train to lose!” Grant fires. “We trained well, we prepared and we knew what they (Melbourne) were going to throw up at us and we knew what we had to do. We were confident going into the game, that’s for sure.”
Grant’s performance, in particular, paved the way for the Panthers’ victory last Sunday. Up against a powerful pack featuring Jessie Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Kevin Proctor and Ryan Hoffman, the St Marys junior ran for a forwards-high total of 206 metres, making 40 tackles in the process.
“I thought my performances the past couple of weeks are getting back to where they need to be – I’ve just got to do what’s right for the team and obviously playing long minutes increases your stats,” Grant says.
“We’ve got Sam McKendry out at the moment… he’s an international and he’s got a lot of experience, and we’ve got a few young props so naturally I’ll be playing long minutes, that’s for sure.”
Preparing to register a first grade ‘ton’ at Centrebet Stadium this Saturday night, Grant said the opportunity to represent his state – and maybe his country later in the year – were driving him to reach his potential, but first and foremost was the task of doing the best for the club he “loves”.
“It’s something you always hope to do as a kid, be around the game for a long time,” Grant says of reaching ‘100’. “To do it at one club and the club I love is pretty special.
“It’s the best moment of your career playing Origin, but in saying that there’s two games to be played before the team’s picked so my main focus is on playing well, otherwise I won’t be picked – if you start worrying about it you won’t play well.
“Obviously it’s always a dream to play for your country that’s for sure but first of all I’ve got the next two games for Penrith and that’s my main focus and then I want to put my best foot forward for Origin.”
Grant insists the Panthers’ season is still well and truly alive, despite just three wins in the opening two months.
“Every game’s important for us now,” Grant says. “It’s no secret we’ve dropped six games from nine, so obviously we’ve got to win a lot of games to make the eight. I think we’re capable of it, that’s for sure.”