Ciraldo backs his NYC stars for national duties
Following his side's seventh straight win in the Holden Cup, Penrith Panthers coach Cameron Ciraldo says several of his star players have done enough to be selected for the Junior Kangaroos ahead of the May 7 Test against New Zealand at Pirtek Stadium.
Given their incredible start to the year, it wouldn't come as a shock to see up to half-a-dozen Panthers picked in the Junior Kangaroos side, and if their coach had it his way, they would be all there to take on their trans-Tasman rivals.
2015 premiership-winning winger Dylan Edwards has embraced his switch to the No.1 jersey, running for 1,653 metres at an average of nearly 207 a game in 2016. With 10 tries to his name as well, Ciraldo expects his fullback's name to be read out when the team is announced.
"I'd like to see all of them picked," Ciraldo joked after Sunday afternoon's win against the Sharks.
"Dylan Edwards has been our best player, Robert Jennings played there last year and has been outstanding for us and Tyrone May is definitely up to that class. Oliver Clark just got back from injury but he'd definitely be pushing for selection if he plays well next week.
"There are a number of other guys who I'm sure would love a crack and have been playing well enough to get a shot."
One of those players is halfback Nathan Cleary, who missed the 2015 Holden Cup grand final because of Australian Schoolboys commitments.
The highly talented youngster has been in scintillating form in this year's NYC, setting up 10 tries, scoring four himself and kicking 42 goals through the first eight rounds.
According to his coach, the Panthers No.7 will only get better as the season rolls on; a scary thought for the 15 other teams vying to knock Penrith off their premiership perch.
"The thing that's most pleasing is that he's working really hard on his game," the Panthers coach said when asked about Cleary's form.
"He's probably got a lot more potential than where he is at the moment. He knows he can improve on a few things but he's really guiding the team well, especially with Jarome (injured Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai) not there."
With his side sitting three points clear of the second-placed Wests Tigers and Knights on the Holden Cup ladder, Ciraldo says he will look to chop and change his side to give some of his more experienced players a shot in the Intrust Super Premiership against more mature bodies.
"I'd say in the next couple of weeks we'll get a few SG Ball boys coming up to our team once they're finished, so I'd like to think a few of our guys will go up to NSW Cup," he said.
"Everyone that's playing at the moment is more than capable of going up and having a crack at it, so hopefully a lot of them get that chance to test themselves against first graders."