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Former New South Wales and Australian captain Brad Fittler says Penrith must take a leaf out of the Bulldogs’ book if they are to wear down the in-form Sydney Roosters at CUA Stadium this Sunday.
And he dismissed calls for Roosters attacking dynamos Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce to be drafted into the NSW Origin side for Game One.
Impressed by what he has seen from the tri-colours over the opening rounds, Fittler said the club where he spent the majority of his career had the potential to tear any side apart in 2010 following big wins over South Sydney, Wests Tigers and Brisbane.
But he pointed to the Roosters’ shock 60-14 thrashing at the hands of the Bulldogs two weeks ago as evidence of how they can be stopped.
“When given the chance to play expansive they’ve been great,” Fittler told NRL.com today.
“Obviously Canterbury did a number on them and I’m not sure that will happen again to that extent, but what it did do was show other sides how you should be playing them.
“You’ve got to play the Roosters through the middle and play them tough.
“If given the chance they’re going to be as good as anyone at shifting the ball and if the opposition isn’t confronting enough, then they’re just going to be too good and too fast.”
Fittler said the challenge for Penrith was to muscle up for the full 80 minutes, having been forced to mount a remarkable second-half comeback last week after trailing 24-6 against Newcastle at half-time, but described the Panthers pack as potentially one of the best in the NRL.
“It shapes up as a real classic,” he said.
“Penrith showed some real character to come back last week. They’ll be a lot better now that Frank Pritchard has had some game time.
“They need to muscle up this week but I think that both sides will be looking forward to this game where it’s a bit ‘scatty’ and up in the air.”
Fittler, who won premierships with both clubs during his distinguished playing career, singled out Penrith five-eighth Luke Lewis and Roosters fullback Carney as key to Sunday’s result.
Carney in particular has been a revelation this season since returning to the NRL in the unfamiliar fullback role, having scored 43 points in his four games (third in the NRL) and adding three try assists.
“He has been outstanding,” Fittler observed. “He has played beyond what anyone thought he could have done.
“But Luke Lewis is a favourite of mine, too. He is the ultimate competitor and one of those guys that you love to have at your club.
“The biggest problem is finding a position for him because he has played halfback, five-eighth, on the wing, in the centres and in the back row.
“I have no idea what his actual position should be but it has to be somewhere on the field because he is so influential.”
However, Fittler rejected talk of either Carney or Roosters team-mate Mitchell Pearce earning a call-up to the NSW State of Origin side for Game One this season, insisting Blues selectors must stick with veteran duo Brett Kimmorley and Trent Barrett after they guided the side to a win in Game Three last year.
“They’re two experienced blokes and they got the job done last year,” he said. “It’s always hard to read too much into the third game because sides are renowned at not quite being up as much for it if they’ve already won the series, but they did a great job.
“I thought they made a real difference.”