We won't rush Jamie back: Cleary
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary insists he won't be rushing key playmaker Jamie Soward back from injury despite the side's current three-game losing streak.
Speaking ahead of Saturday night's clash with the struggling Sea Eagles, Cleary is adamant that, for now, he won't be tempted into pushing his chief orchestrator into an early return.
"There's always that balance I guess between getting someone back at the perfect time or maybe one [week] earlier," he said on Friday.
"But at this stage, we've got no plans on rushing him. It's a long year and obviously he's important to our team and we've got to make sure that he's fit and ready to go."
Soward, 30, will miss his fourth straight game since undergoing back surgery last month and remains sidelined for at least another fortnight.
And while the former Dragon began his recovery this week, Cleary doesn't expect the same speedy recovery that allowed centre Jamal Idris to return early from a similar surgery in the pre-season.
"I think he had a little bit more done so he'll be out a little bit longer. I think it wasn't too different, [but] I'm not a surgeon," he said.
"He's always hanging around. You always know when he's here. He's starting to feel good about himself and starting to get on track. He's still got a while yet, but it's obviously good to have him around.
"But we've got to keep performing in the meantime. One thing we did really well last year was how we coped with injuries all the way through the season. That's good experience to fall back on, and something that I'm confident can keep happening."
The club received some good news on centre Dean Whare, who'll miss his first game for the club after straining his hamstring in the second half of last week's defeat to the Cowboys.
The Kiwi representative has appeared in 55 consecutive games for the Panthers since making the move from Manly at the end of the 2012 season.
"Hopefully next week. That was good news, because initially we were quite worried," Cleary said.
"But the scans came back not too bad. Unfortunately he misses his first game for the club. He's been a real staple part of our backline, but he won't be gone too long, so that's good."
Second-rower Lewis Brown (ribs) remains sidelined for another two weeks, while prop Brent Kite (shoulder) is close to a return as soon as this week.