Penrith co-captain Peter Wallace has been ruled out for the season after rupturing the ACL joint in his right knee in his team's loss to Cronulla on Saturday. Credit: Charles Knight. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward might forever be one of the smallest blokes on a rugby league field, but he's never short of a good quote.
Back-to-back defeats to the Roosters and then Cronulla were the first time this year Penrith had fallen in consecutive outings, meaning Soward and his team-mates are mired in their biggest form slump of the year.
On the same day it was announced halfback and co-captain Peter Wallace had been ruled out for the rest of the season with a ruptured ACL, the former Dragons pivot fronted up to the media on Monday and singled himself out for a particularly poor effort. Panthers lose Peter Wallace for season
"Personally on the weekend I didn't perform to the standards that the team expect," he said.
"I know that I wasn't happy with how I played. When one of your playmakers is out there and feeling that, then I need to pull my finger out and make sure I'm ready to go Friday.
"I'm in one of those positions where I am in an important role. On the weekend I didn't perform up to that. This week I'm going to do everything in my power so I can come out and perform for my team and my coach and make sure that we're doing the best we can Friday night."
The loss of Wallace is a catastrophic one, given back-up playmaker Isaac John also had his season ended by a ruptured achilles. The right knee injury to Wallace was unrelated to the left knee problem he had just recovered from.
But even when given the chance of using a battered halves partner as an excuse, Soward was clear he wasn't going to deviate from his message.
"I'm old enough now, I've been through enough to be able to perform. I need to not worry about the situation that we're in with halves partners and stuff like that," he said.
"[Wallace] came out and did an amazing job to play on through that injury. Personally, I didn't back him up enough in the halves. It's something I'm really disappointed in.
"But the only way for me to go out there and get rid of last week is to play well on Friday night. Preparation for me is big this week. Make sure I'm ready to go Friday."
It was a rather surprising public self-appraisal from the one-time Origin representative, who has often sprayed critics more than he has sprayed himself.
But whether his damning assessment was pre-conceived or not, one thing remains clear: over the past fortnight, the Panthers are making a pretty good impression of a team that doesn't belong in second spot.
An uncharacteristic finish to the Roosters game a fortnight ago handed them their biggest defeat of the season, before a lifeless start in Bathurst consigned them to a second defeat against cellar-dwellers Cronulla.
Speaking like a senior player all too aware of the consequences of a third straight defeat this weekend, Soward accused his team of looking beyond the current week's opponents.
"I did say that after the game on Saturday. I felt even myself, we put ourselves in a good position and maybe we are trying to hold onto that spot," he said.
"But we need to realise that we need to keep winning games to cement that spot. I've been in similar positions before - you really need to be winning the tight games and on the weekend we didn't do that.
"Looking back, it's my personal evaluation of the game was I didn't perform to how I wanted to and all I can do is concentrate on myself this week and get myself prepared and I know the other 16 blokes in first grade are going to be doing the same."