Ben Blaschke,, NRL.com
They have won just one game this season and have seen their young backline decimated by injury but Penrith hooker James Segeyaro has called on his teammates to stay positive as they look to end a five-game losing streak when the Panthers host fellow battlers Parramatta on Monday night.
One of a number of new arrivals at the foot of the mountains in 2013, Segeyaro was well aware of the difficulties that the club would face this season following the departure of star trio Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon.
But with injuries already halting their progress, the former North Queensland hooker believes it is vital that the young Panthers ride out the storm.
“When I came down this year [I] knew that it was going to be a rebuilding year,” the 22-year-old told NRL.com. “Gus [general manager Phil Gould] is an influential person and he told me what to expect. At the moment we’re not going so well but you’ve got to take the good with the bad sometimes and cop your medicine.
“The important thing is that everyone stays positive. At times like these you can’t be negative. Negativity is like a disease and if you let it in it will spread like wildfire so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll get there.”
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The Panthers suffered a huge blow last month when five-eighth Lachlan Coote was ruled out for the entire season with a pectoral injury and have taken further hits over the past week with Wes Naiqama (knee), Josh Mansour (ankle) and Blake Austin (foot) all expected to miss six weeks.
That doesn’t bode well for the side’s stuttering attack, which has scored a total of just 16 points in their past three outings.
Segeyaro pointed to a lack of confidence amongst the Panthers’ cubs as a telling factor in recent weeks and said it was crucial that they find a way to cross the try line.
“We need to score more points to build confidence because we’ haven’t scored many points the past few weeks,” he said. “We do lack a bit of confidence at times so we need to build that up and get on a bit of a roll.
“I think some of our last performances have been good, but losing Lachlan Coote… he is a major part of our team. He is a player we need there when we need someone to get over the line. He is a special player like that.
“He is always there and never gives up on the play. We’ve lacked that a bit the last couple of games.
“Obviously Wes brings a lot of leadership to our team too and then [Josh Mansour] – he works very hard and is always the first one back there to take a run in a set. He is great at giving the forwards a breather as well, so we’ll miss that.
“But we’ve got depth in our team. We’ve got young Matty Moylan making his debut and Dean Whare in the centres. Lewis Brown can play centre or second row. I think we’ll be alright in that sense.
“As I said, we just need to stay positive because I think it is all positive signs at the Panthers.”
Despite Penrith’s woes, Segeyaro said he had no regrets about leaving North Queensland to head to Sydney’ west this season.
“Gus told me that he wanted me there to forge my own future at the club and become a consistent NRL player and a big part of the team. That’s what I want to be,” he said.
“I’m enjoying my role alongside Kev [Kingston] there. It’s what I’ve been working on all off-season – it gives us more attack around the ruck with the big forwards.
“I think it is working well for us but at times we need the end of our sets to finish better because I think that is letting us down at the moment, building pressure and stuff like that. So yeah, I’m enjoying that but obviously my goal eventually is to be starting hooker. Everyone that plays NRL wants to start.”
Asked about Monday night’s clash with the Eels – who are also in the midst of a rebuilding phase after two disastrous seasons under former coach Stephen Kearney, Segeyaro said: “They are already playing a much better brand of footy than last year. Reni [Maitua] has really stepped up with that captaincy role and Haynesy – when he is on, he’s on.
“You don’t want to play a side like that into form because once they get a sniff they can be really hard to stop. We saw that with their winning streak a few years back. But I think if we go out there and stick to our game plan that we’ve been practising all week, we’ll go alright.”