In-form Panthers put hands up
Kevin Kingston didn't play a minute of football over the weekend, but the Penrith skipper returned to training on Monday a very proud clubman.
And that might've had something to do with the nine Panthers who took part in the representative round, all of whom impressed the club captain.
"I was a very proud captain. Watching them play on the weekend, I thought they played really well. They represented the club really well," Kingston said.
"A few of them put their hands up for selection for the state team."
Kingston was referring to NSW hopefuls Matt Moylan and Jamal Idris, who earned Players' Player and Man of the Match awards respectively in the City-Country fixture.
Moylan's try assist for Bulldogs Josh Reynolds in the first half was one for the highlight reels, while Idris jagged one on his own as he continued his long comeback from a broken leg.
First-grade regulars Tim Grant and Adam Docker also made solid contributions in the Dubbo draw, while Kiwis Dean Whare and Isaac John played with distinction in a gritty New Zealand side against the Kangaroos last Friday night.
And then there were young talents Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Kevin Naiqama and Eto Nabuli, all of whom represented Fiji in the Pacific Test against Samoa on Saturday.
Five-eighth Jamie Soward was particularly pleased with the efforts of Idris and Moylan, and expected the duo to return to club football playing at another level.
"Jamal has come down [from the Gold Coast] with a professional attitude, which is something we knew he had. And for him to be performing the way he is, especially on that left edge - he played right edge yesterday - it just shows his versatility," Soward said.
"And for Matty Moylan, [I'm] really happy for him. He's trained really hard, he's put some muscle on, and he's starting to grow into his man-body, which is good. He did the things that he was supposed to do yesterday and they get the rewards after playing well."
The former NSW pivot acknowledged that it would be difficult for either to break into a talent-laden Blues squad this year, but believed that both were realistic chances of representing their state in the not-too-distant future.
"Everyone's got those goals. NSW have got a lot of talented players to pick from," Soward said. "[But] the best thing they could do yesterday, especially for Matty, is go out and enjoy their footy. I thought they did that.
"Jamal's played for Australia so he knows what it takes to play rep footy. But it's going to come down to what the Blues want to do. Nut neither of them would look out of place in a Blues jersey."
Having not won back-to-back games yet this season, the eighth-placed Panthers could do with a bit more from their representative-calibre players, particularly in defence.
Kingston, whose right foot was in a moon boot on Monday but said he'd be right to go on Sunday, labelled Penrith's approach to their last-start loss to Cronulla as "soft".
"We rocked up with a bit of a soft attitude I thought, we didn't play our tough usual style," he said. "And in essence that's why we got beat. A few technical things, stuff we'll fix, but in essence we rocked up with the wrong attitude."
The off-contract 30-year-old said his side needed to quickly address their inconsistent start to a campaign that has so far failed to record a win away from home. The Panthers are again on the road this week, facing off against a Newcastle side desperate to keep in touch with the top eight.
"When you start thinking about it that's when it's in your head," he said. "Just this middle period of the season, it's so important for all teams. It's very important for us to try and win some games and go on a bit of a run. We're in the eight now, only by for and against, so we've just got to try and stay there."