Panther cubs vow to step up
They represent the future of the club but back-rower Bryce Cartwright believes that he and his fellow Panther cubs need to step up and show leadership beyond their years to help Penrith through their current injury crisis.
On a day when Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, was on the Gold Coast spruiking the 30th anniversary of the original Back To The Future film, Panther fans were given a glimpse of how their team will look for the next decade with a three-quarter line boasting an average age of just 21.
More than half the team that took the field against the Titans were aged 23 or younger but with senior members of the team such as Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Jamal Idris and Brent Kite all out for extended periods, Cartwright insists it is up to the young ones to steady the ship following their fourth loss in their past five games.
"It's hard seeing those guys out, they help out a lot, but I think in saying that, that gives you an extra role to try and be a leader yourself," said Cartwright, who played his sixth game of the year on Saturday in the 32-6 loss.
"I know we're young but we're in the team for a reason and we've got to show some leadership qualities if we want to be a consistent, good first-grader.
"When you come into first grade every team and every player is awesome with their speed and strength so it's going to take a bit of time to get used to. The pressure's hard but if you want to play here there's always going to be pressure.
"We've just got to cop that loss on the chin and learn from that and take it into next week against Cronulla."
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has been forced to blood a number of young players already this season and admits that without senior players in key positions they are being exposed to a tough NRL initiation.
"We've got a very young team and a lot of young players are being exposed in a situation where you'd prefer we had a lot more seniority around them but that's not the case at the moment," said Cleary, who looks to have lost Josh Mansour with a knee injury for the coming weeks.
"The thing about injuries is that you've got to change personnel and when you change personnel in key positions it just alters your synergy if you like and we were disjointed all day."
Nineteen-year-old Robert Jennings was the latest Panther to be handed an NRL debut and although he looked likely in attack, it was his 23 tackles and no misses that was the greatest indicator that he is capable of handling first grade.
"I thought he played really well. He's only a young kid but he did himself and his family proud today," said Cartwright.
"I played one game in NSW Cup last week with him and he was the best player on the park. He's just a freak."
After an eye-catching introduction to first grade last season, 20-year-old Cartwright was sent back to NSW Cup in Round 6 with explicit instructions to dominate and to come back to first grade a more confident player.
While his teammates were offload happy in the first half, Cartwright was more circumspect with the footy than he is accustomed to when he was introduced and knows what he must work on to retain his position in the team.
"[Cleary] pretty much said to be dominant down there, that I have to be the best player on the field every game I'm playing down there," Cartwright said of his quick stint in NSW Cup. "Always get involved and show a bit more aggression out on the field.
"It's taken a while to come back from this injury (he had a shoulder reconstruction in the off-season) but I'm getting there slowly.
"It's a massive step from the 20s to first grade so I think that NSW Cup stepping stone helps out a lot but we just need to work hard at training, play as a team a bit more and we'll be fine."