Knights pair NRL's best: Idris
Panthers weapon Jamal Idris has labelled Newcastle's centre pairing of Dane Gagai and Joey Leilua the best in the competition.
Idris and centre partner Dean Whare lavished praise on their counterparts ahead of their clash with the undefeated Knights in Newcastle on Saturday evening.
"I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd probably say they're close to the best, if not the best," Idris told NRL.com.
Idris will face off the similarly powerful Gagai, who averages 168 metres and leads his team with three tries and 18 tackle breaks through the first three games.
The Panthers centre rates the Queensland hopeful among the top centres in the NRL.
"Every centre has an opposing centre who they think is the better one, but I personally think he's definitely up within the top 3-4 of the toughest for me," Idris said.
"One-on-one, he's ruthless. He's hard to tackle. He worms and squirms around. You've got to wait for help to come to get him down, which is one of the toughest things."
Idris said the most effective way to limit Gagai's effectiveness in attack was to defend him as a team.
"You've just got to depend more on your inside and outside. He's the kind of player that doesn't go down with the ball. He'll stay up, he'll fight. You'll think the tackle's over, he'll fight his way out of it and make another 40 metres or so, so you've got to defend with the people around you," he said.
Whare will also be looking for assistance from teammates when dealing with his direct opposition in Samoan international Joey Leilua.
The Kiwi representative was just as effusive in his praise for his counterpart, who also has the impressive numbers of 153 metres per game, two tries and 13 tackle busts thus far in 2015.
"He's a big boy and he'll be hard to stop. Usually you have the little fast centres, but he's more of a forward playing out in the centres," Whare said.
"You've got to be wary and get a lot of help from the outside because of how big they are. That's the biggest difference with him and other centres.
"Him and Gagai, they're a big reason as to why they're going so well. They've got some strike centres and they want to use it. Hopefully me and [Dallin Watene-Zelezniak] defend well. We've done okay so far so we've just got to keep it up."
Meanwhile, Idris has implored teammate Jamie Soward not to rush his comeback from spinal surgery. The Panthers five-eighth went under the knife last week to repair an issue similar to the one Idris addressed in January. And while the former NSW centre made a surprise return in Round 1, he said it was important Soward took his time.
"I tend to heal differently. I came back four weeks early, but I felt alright. I went through all the core exercises at training, did a lot of core work actually, and that probably helped speed up my recovery," he said.
"The main thing I'd be saying to Sowie is just take his time. Backs are not something you want to be rushing, it's kind of like a hamstring. You rush that, then it's going to take longer and longer to heal.
"You think you're coming back and you think you can play, but you actually set yourself back 2-3 weeks. I don't want to put any pressure on him or jinx him, but knowing Sowie, I think he probably will be [back earlier]."