Panthers look to fill leadership void
"Oh my god. I never even thought of that. I didn't realise. Wow."
That was Josh Mansour's reaction when we told him he could be the oldest player in Penrith's backline when they meet the Titans on Saturday afternoon.
With Dean Whare in doubt with a hamstring issue, and a ruptured ACL ending centre partner Jamal Idris' season last week, coach Ivan Cleary could be forced into fielding one of the youngest backlines in the club's recent history.
And that means thrusting the 25-year-old Mansour into the role of resident sage.
"And all I can tell them is how to grow a beard fast," he joked to NRL.com.
That, and the valuable lessons he learnt from his first Kangaroos tour in the Four Nations last year, which is part of the reason why the club allowed Mansour to postpone shoulder surgery that delayed his start to the season.
"The young boys, I see them looking up to me, and they do ask me a few things on the side. I'm always willing to get them information of what I've learnt from that tour," he said.
Not only will the Panthers be without one of their major strike weapons in Idris, but in halves pair Jamie Soward (back) and Peter Wallace (knee), they have over two decades worth of NRL experience sitting idly on the sidelines, too.
But hooker James Segeyaro says he and fullback Matt Moylan have no choice but to fill a leadership void that teammate Jamie Soward excelled in during their injury crisis last season.
"Last year we had the same thing. Jamie stepped up and I learnt a few things off that. He's helped me become a senior bloke. He's always in my ear, even though he's not playing. He gives great advice," he said.
In the absence of Soward and Wallace, Moylan played a crucial in helping the Panthers end a three-game losing streak with a dominant performance against Manly last weekend that Segeyaro said showcased his experience from last year's Four Nations.
"I think after that Four Nations, he's come back more mature. He's got a tougher head on him now. He's doing that role very well," he said.
Moylan, who is a contender for the NSW fullback position vacated by Jarryd Hayne, said it was only natural for him to accelerate his development when key players were missing.
"It just comes naturally with players being out. You want to step up, play better, do a little bit more," he said.
"But in saying that we've got two capable players who are stepping up and doing a good job for us. It's not really putting too much pressure on myself or 'Chicko' (Segeyaro)."
The 23-year-old said he made a concerted effort to involve himself heavily against the Sea Eagles, and he ended the night with two game-deciding try assists for Mansour.
"I definitely wanted to involve myself a bit more. That's when I'm playing better footy, I'm in around the ball a bit more," he said.
"In the position I'm playing, leadership is part of the game. You've got to be pretty vocal at fullback in getting the defensive line set, telling where players have to go. It's part and parcel of playing the position."