Idris open to move into forward pack
Panthers strike centre Jamal Idris has put his hand up to finally move into the second row this season, in a move that could also mean Sika Manu shifts into the front.
Just three weeks after having spinal surgery, Idris was a shock starter in Penrith's trial loss to Parramatta last Saturday, where he spent his first stint in the centres and then his second in the back row.
"I thought I was going to be buggered to be honest with you. It's been three solid weeks, so I got out there, didn't know what to expect," Idris said.
"I was thinking I might have to put my hand up 15-20 minutes into it. It was a quick game as well but I felt really good. I came on in the second half in the second row, but I like the forwards. It's a bit of fun. I can get the ball where I want, run where I want, and do what I want."
Rising three-quarter George Jennings is almost certain to deputise for injured wingman Josh Mansour, who is out recovering from shoulder surgery until Round 5.
But a string of impressive performances from the rookie early in the season could tempt coach Ivan Cleary to keep Jennings in the backline and shift Idris towards the midfield when the Kangaroos winger returns.
Teammate Jamie Soward said Idris undoubtedly had the size to play in the forwards but insisted the left centre spot would remain his for now and that the club's emerging backline talent would simply need to bide their time.
"At 120 kilos and with the dreadlocks, I don't think you're afraid of the contact. Obviously he's big enough to play there, whether he's got the motor there for 80 minutes will be something to look at," Soward said.
"But I think he showed on the weekend that he enjoys playing different positions. The thing about Jamal is he enjoys a challenge. I thought on the weekend his first 20 minutes was outstanding for his first run back. It's nice to just see him out there playing.
"At the end of the day, [the rookies are] going to have to put runs on the board, go out there and perform to the standards that they've set themselves and that we want as a team. If they're doing that, obviously we can look at changing but at the moment I think Jamal will stay in the centres. He's a nice, big, imposing presence to have out there."
If Idris was to move into the middle it could also force a re-shuffle in the Panthers pack, with one option shifting veteran forward Sika Manu into the front row, where he played spot minutes for Penrith last season.
With Cleary now blessed with a glut of options in the back row, the off-contract Manu is also open to moving in-field to continue his career at the club.
"The amount of back-rowers we have at the club and how good they are, it's awesome. We've got a lot of young, good back-rowers, so I might have to push in the middle or something," Manu said.
"I'm not too sure what Ivan's plan is for me, [but] I just want to make the team. That's my plan. I don't care where I play, as long as I get on the field."
The former Storm forward was one of the few members of the squad not to have undergone surgery or play representative football over the summer, and in fact participated in his first full off-season since joining Penrith in 2013 with the aim of extending his stay at the foot of the mountains beyond the end of the year.
"I just need to focus on starting the season well and everything else will take care of itself. I'd love to [stay], the past two years I've been here, me and my family have really enjoyed it, and the club's really good too. They've built a really good culture here now. I'm sure in the next few years, Penrith will be really good in the NRL," he said.