Segeyaro: My spot's not safe
Panthers hooker James Segeyaro has brushed suggestions a shortage of hookers at the club will place a heavy reliance on himself, insisting some young guns at the club will be keeping him on his toes with competition for the Penrith No.9 jersey.
Speaking at the first week of pre-season training, Segeyaro also told NRL.com that with a new coach and a few new young players around it feels like starting again at a new club.
The club is also boosted by a more experienced signing – Dragons and Blues forward Trent Merrin – and Segeyaro said his time spent with Merrin with the PM's XIII trip to Papua New Guinea recently had given him a new level of admiration for the hard-working lock.
"We only spent four or five days together [in PNG] but we all got on like a house on fire, we've still got a WhatsApp group we still chat in all the boys, it was a great experience, really good experience for myself and for all the boys that haven't been to PNG before," Segeyaro said.
"It was great playing with 'Mez'. He got man of the match and it was well-deserved, he played head and shoulders above everyone. He took to the captaincy really well. He'll return to training next week and we're looking forward to running alongside him."
Elsewhere in the new-look side, despite the recent retirement or departures of Kevin Kingston, Kierran Moseley and then this year Api Koroisau from the playing ranks, there are plenty of options in Segeyaro's position, the former Cowboy said.
"We've got Sione [Katoa] from the 20s who played our last game against Newcastle [in Round 26], he's there and the young bloke from Parra [Zach Dockar-Clay] – there's definitely competition for me."
With injuries sorely testing Penrith's depth last year – particularly in the playmaking positions – another recruit who will shore up those roles is Junior Kiwi Te Maire Martin, while fullback Matt Moylan has also been tipped for a shift to No.6.
"Young 'T' [Martin] from the Wests Tigers looks like a player of the future and I'm not too sure what the plan around 'Moysa' is, he might end up playing in the halves," Segeyaro said.
"I'd really like to give the 1-6-7-9 combination we started with Round 1 last year a real good crack and obviously try and keep us all fit but I'm not the coach, I'm just happy to play."
Injuries – specifically, keeping them to a minimum – will be a key focus for Penrith in 2016 after the devastation to the playing ranks last year.
"It's the biggest thing, you saw through the finals if you can keep your squad healthy through that period of time you give yourself every opportunity and that's the biggest battle, just keeping everyone healthy and fit. With our combinations, our 6-7-9-1, if we can keep the core of us healthy and fit we'll give ourselves every opportunity to be there that time of year," Segeyaro said.
"Hopefully 'Wal' [halfback Peter Wallace, who is recovering from knee surgery] gets out on the field ASAP so we can build our combinations going into next year."
Segeyaro said the overall vibe was like being at a new club in the early stages of the pre-season under new head coach Anthony Griffin.
"It's a good feel around the club, sort of a new feel, in a way it's like coming to a new club. Everyone's been so used to Ivan, Griffo's brought his honesty - and I'm not saying Ivan didn't have that - but everyone's a bit more aware of keeping themselves accountable in everything they do. There's a price you've got to pay if you stuff up and stuff like that.
"He doesn't beat around the bush, he's straight to the point which is what you want from your coach. He tells you if you're not doing something right, he'll tell you straight away which is good."