Young Panthers' belief tested
Friday night may finally have been the straw that broke the Panthers' back for 2015.
Penrith suffered their heaviest defeat in Ivan Cleary's tenure, falling to the Melbourne Storm 52-10 at AAMI Park.
The visitors offered very little resistance as a rampant Melbourne scored 10 tries from seven different players.
It was the highest score conceded by Penrith in six years, since Round 23 2009 against the Broncos.
The lack of fight had the coach cutting an understandably forlorn figure after the match.
"We came up with two errors from the first two sets and then when they scored it really tested our belief and it wasn't very strong," Cleary said.
"Of course it is very concerning but the best way to sum it up is that this is not a one off, it's been building.
"We've probably got too many young players shouldering too much of a burden for us."
A horror night for the Panthers was compounded when in-form second-row forward Bryce Cartwright left the field in the second half with knee cartilage damage.
The 20-year-old will likely join what is now the longest injury list in the competition.
Dallin Watene Zelezniak, David Simmons and Sika Manu were all withdrawn from the side prior to kickoff leaving the squad gutted of experience and confidence and it showed.
The heavy defeat has seen Penrith slump to 12th on the Telstra Premiership ladder and they could very well find themselves two wins outside the top eight come Monday morning.
It is a far cry from the side who made a preliminary final last year, and in fact just seven players who played that night against the Bulldogs were out there against the Storm on Friday night.
Cleary admits there is no hiding from the predicament his side currently find themselves in.
"Where we are currently at, it's been a very difficult year," Cleary said.
"We've had a lot of disruptions, a lot of injuries and sometimes it just gets a bit too hard. At times it tests your belief and under pressure tonight it was found wanting."
Penrith must regroup before hosting Canberra next Sunday afternoon.