Civoniceva wary of the ageless Titan
Petero Civoniceva fears the injury that ruled out Mat Rogers will spark former Panther Preston Campbell to haunt his former club.
A longtime fan favourite at the foot of the mountains, Campbell won a Premiership during his time at the Panthers and Civoniceva is mindful that he could return to tear his former side apart.
“The football that he has been playing this year is very impressive,” Civoniceva said.
“We all know what great footwork he possesses and with the injury to Mat Rogers it will just mean that he will be in closer to the action and working off Scott Prince.
“That is a huge challenge for us, but we have done a lot of work during the week and we are confident that we have addressed that.”
Just two weeks separate Campbell and Civoniceva’s NRL debuts back in 1998.
Neither man has shown any sign of slowing down despite playing in their 12th NRL campaign.
Campbell, 31, picked up the Titans Player of the Year award last year, while Civoniceva, 33, was named Player and Clubman of the Year for Penrith.
Campbell’s vintage form in 2009 has sparked coach John Cartwright to declare him a contender for a NSW Origin jersey and you won’t get any arguments from Civoniceva.
“Nothing has changed,” he said.
“I suppose the only thing that is different is that he is wearing a Titans jersey.
“He is definitely a fan favourite, he is still one of the only guys in the NRL who can just spark something out of nothing.
“I think it will be really exciting for Preston to come back and play at Penrith.
“Being an old favourite son of the Panthers supporters, he is really going to enjoy coming back here.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of Penrith supporters out there to see him in action.”
The Titans have won five of their first six games and would move back to the top of the table with a victory against the Panthers.
Key injuries may have derailed the Titan’s last two seasons, but Civoniceva believes that their victories without playmaker Scott Prince have proven the Gold Coast outfit is the real deal in 2009.
“The Titans are definitely [the real deal] this year,” he said.
“We all know what a great team the Titans are with Scott Prince leading the way, they have a great backline and a very impressive forward line as well.
“They play a very entertaining game of football, so defensively, it is going to be a really tough challenge for us.
“Scott Prince is really leading the way for them, his kicking game, his passing game and his direction is a real bonus for them and guys like Preston and [Anthony] Laffranchi have been really playing well.
“All over the park they have class players and it is going to take a fair effort to stop them.”
Penrith find themselves just out of the top eight, but it could all be so different for the Mountain men.
They pushed the Broncos for 60 minutes before poor execution let the game slip away, while they have also suffered heartbreaking two-point losses to the Storm and Bulldogs.
The results are not a true reflection of the form or determination that the Penrith side has displayed.
Civoniceva believes the debut of new recruit Luke Walsh might just give them the direction they need in the crucial back-end of games.
“It’s not like we have been blown off the park or anything like that,” Civoniceva said.
“The thing that we are lacking is just that composure at certain times.
“Luke Walsh is playing for us tonight, he’s been brought over from Newcastle and has been very impressive playing for Windsor our feeder team and at training.
“He gets his opportunity and the work that we have done with him throughout the week has shown us that he is a great director of play, he has a great kicking game and has some great skill as well.
“Hopefully he will give us that bit of execution that we have probably been lacking in the first few rounds.”
Civoniceva said the support of the Panthers fans continues to be a source of inspiration for his side.
“The crowds have been fantastic,” he said.
“From a player’s perspective, it is just great to run out on the park and see the turn out that we have been getting over the last few home games, it really means a lot to the players.
“We are looking forward to as many fans getting out there as possible because it is a really important game for us.
“Two points would put us up there in the top eight.”