Fire still burns in Petero

THRASHED by Brisbane last Friday night and facing the loss of one of their brightest stars after yet another alcohol-fuelled incident over the weekend, Penrith captain Petero Civoniceva has at least given fans something to cheer about with news that he could play on beyond 2010.

Civoniceva, who re-signed with the Panthers last week for another year, turns 33 tomorrow and was expected to call it quits on his 13-season career when the new deal ran out.

But amid all of the turmoil circling Penrith this morning with the standing down of interchange hooker Masada Iosefa for one week, the veteran prop says retirement is the last thing on his mind.

“I still love being out there with the boys and hopefully that keeps me going for as long as possible because I’m not ready to finish up just yet,” Civoniceva told NRL.com.

“I’m still enjoying it and I still feel that there is some good footy left in me.”

Asked if retirement had at least crossed his mind, the Panthers captain replied: “Not really.

“Obviously the option for next year was in Penrith’s favour because there was always the chance of injuries at my age, but thankfully I’ve been able to stay fit over the course of the contract and I’ve been happy with my form down here.”

Despite their years, both Civoniceva and his Queensland team-mate Steve Price have been the form props of the competition over the past three years, playing key roles in their respective clubs’ steady improvement and helping the Maroons to a hat-trick of series wins.

Price himself is yet to make a decision on his future beyond 2009, having turned 35 last month, but Civoniceva said he will also follow the lead of the Warriors’ captain in playing representative football for as long as possible.

“I’ll leave that in the selectors’ hands,” he said. “We always strive to be as consistent as possible and you always hope that your form warrants selection.

“So I’m just going to keep plugging along.

“There will be a day when I don’t get selected but while I’m still playing I’m going to give it my best shot and see how we go.”

Civoniceva’s re-signing was seen as a huge boost for the Panthers ahead of their clash with high-flying Brisbane last week but a first-half collapse ended any hopes of an upset.

They then hit the headlines again for all the wrong reasons after Iosefa was involved in an incident with security guards at the Mean Fiddler pub at Rouse Hill. Star centre Michael Jennings was also implicated although the Panthers’ own investigations reveal he does not have a case to answer,

Club officials met this morning and decided to stand down Iosefa for one week. The hooker last night pleaded not guilty to charges of affray, assaulting police and failing to leave licensed premises. Through a statement, the club said it accepted the only way to resolve the matter was through court process but added it believed Iosefa’s actions “amounted to high-risk behaviour that has brought the game and the club into disrepute”.

Civoniceva was unable to comment on Saturday’s events but said that Friday night’s loss wasn’t a true indication of the progress the Panthers had made this season.

“I feel – and all of the other players feel – that we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.

“Execution-wise we’re letting ourselves down but we’re generating a lot of momentum down the middle of the park.

“Our forward pack is going great – as a pack we’re holding our own.

“I don’t think we’ve been dominated at all, our big men have been fantastic and Trent Waterhouse has been a big part of that. He is leading the way for us. It’s down the try-scoring end of the field that we still have our issues but they’re problems that we work hard on at training and keep persevering with.

“So, on the field, I feel like we’re making good ground at least.

“It’s not all bad news for us.”