Panthers won't be ruffled by Ennis: Idris
Canterbury-Bankstown's chief instigator Michael Ennis can niggle until the cows come home – but he won't get a bo peep out of the Panthers on Saturday night.
At least that's what the Panthers were promising on Tuesday as they prepared for one of the biggest games of their collective careers.
And it was one of Ennis's former teammates Jamal Idris who not only anticipated a verbal barrage from his old sparring partner, but guaranteed it.
"You don't even have to ask that question. Everyone knows what people are like. Everyone in the NRL knows everyone. It's like a community," the ex-Bulldog said.
"In saying that, one thing you can get out of that is you know whose skin you can get under. You know who can niggle. You know who you can throw off by saying a couple of comments.
"Mick's a smart enough bloke to know that. That's what he does and it works in his advantage, so good on him."
Idris, who played his first four damaging seasons in the NRL in the blue and white, remembered the day rugby league's biggest pest arrived for his first day with the Belmorians.
"I remember '09, me and Hazem [El Masri], we were all running a lap, warming up at training, we were laughing at Mick," Idris said. "Me and Hazem were like, 'Yeah, Mick, he's one of the dirtiest players in the game'.
"And Mick turned around, blew up, and said, 'How am I?'
"Me, Benny Hannant , Hazem, and a few of the other boys literally fell to the ground laughing. We were like, 'You serious? You don't see it?'
"And then he backtracked a little bit and went quiet. He gave me a couple of looks but then we were fine after training. But yeah, he's always been like that."
Although the first-year Panther says it's not a bad thing.
"It really isn't. A lot of people in the NRL, even though they might hate me for saying this, they've gotten too touchy, too sensitive. It's not touch football, it's a contact sport," Idris said.
"There's going to be aggression in it. We're not friends on the park. We're meant to hate each other on the field. We're playing against each other. We want to win. Each person wants to win.
"The little things that he does, I love it. If that gets out of the game, then what are we doing out on the field anymore?"
The problem for the departing Bulldogs skipper is finding a target in black to menace. The ice-cool Panthers have made their living this year by becoming the quietest achievers in the NRL, and Idris reckons searching for a nervous Panthers will be a waste of time.
"I think everyone's pretty smart on our team," said the 24-year-old.
"In saying that, players he wouldn't go after is Adam Docker of Plummy [Nigel Plum]. If he's smart, which I think he is, [he'd] leave them alone."
But what about the head Panther, Jamie Soward, who doesn't mind a bit of lip action himself? Surely if you're planning on taking down a runaway ship like this year's Panthers, then you take down the captain first?
We put that very question to the reborn playmaker in not so subtle terms: Does he anticipate a pat on the head from his former Origin teammate?
"I don't really care," Soward shrugged. "If he wants to talk, he's going to talk. If he wants to pat heads, he's going to pat heads. We don't really care.
"Probably [he will]. It's nothing new. I've played against him a while now. Unless he's got a new book, it doesn't really matter.
"He's said everything you can say to me beforehand. If I'm going out there listening to Michael Ennis, then I'm not concentrating on my job. And that's an important factor for us to win on Saturday night. I've got to concentrate on my job."
Like Idris said, it'd be a waste of time.
"You know what, to Sowie's credit, I've known Sowie since '07, just friends and stuff. He's gotten that much mentally tougher," Idris said.
"And he had to, from the amount of abuse that he cops from his own team, his own fans. And he's come out, and things like that don't get to him anymore, which is good to see.
"When we played against the Roosters, their crowd was chanting 'Soward's a wanker'. They caught me on camera when we were piling into the scrum smiling. I was looking at Sowie and I was laughing to him and joking about it. He was just smiling back.
"He doesn't get enough credit for that as well."