No panic for Griffin and Panthers
Despite only notching up two wins from their opening six rounds to start the season, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin remained optimistic about the road ahead after his side went down to another narrow loss at Pepper Stadium.
The late field-goal to Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds killed off the Panthers' charge late in the game and left the home side with another close loss to deal with after the Roosters also stole victory at the death in Round 3.
A disruptive week that saw four new faces in the Panthers outfit meant Griffin was forced to blood debutant Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and recall Dylan Edwards and journeyman Michael Oldfield in the backline.
"The season is only a quarter of the way done and there's a lot of football to go but from a performance with the players representing our club, I was extremely proud of them and happy with the effort," Griffin said post-game.
"I thought we showed a real tonne of character in the middle of that second half, they had us by the throat for long periods and they had a chance to finish us off a few times.
"But we got ourselves back into the game and unfortunately, that last two to three minutes, the game slipped away again.
"It's obviously disappointing… we had a team out there tonight representing our club that competed.
"I was certainly proud of the way they went about that game, it slipped away from them in the first 20 minutes and then in the middle of the second half but we just kept coming back."
Griffin was quick to turn the negatives into a positive but admitted while he was proud, the losses aren’t taken well by the players and he was confident things would turn around.
"We're all bad losers and don’t like losing but I thought we won in a lot of ways tonight," he said.
"Obviously you'd like to be winning, particularly in a game like that where we had a lot of obstacles to get ourselves in the position.
"We're building some good performances and we will get stronger from it."
After the club made the decision to demote Panthers trio Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku for the game with the Rabbitohs, their replacements stood tall with Edwards running over 168 metres and performed strongly at the back.
Oldfield (150 metres) and Watene-Zelezniak (117) also proved handy replacements with both contributing to tries in the match.
Stand-in skipper Peter Wallace said the decision by Griffin to drop the trio earlier in the week forced the side to play differently, although he believes it would have made little change on the scoreboard.
"We had to adjust [to all the changes] but I thought Dylan [Edwards] had a great game at fullback so obviously we had different players but that’s no excuse," Wallace said.
"Although we haven’t been winning of late, we're taking some lessons out of it and learning as a group.
"While the result was disappointing, the effort was really good."
With the Panthers set to host Cronulla at Pepper Stadium on Sunday-week, it is likely Griffin will be quick to recall the axed trio for the clash with the defending premiers, along with welcoming the return of their two injured back-rowers.
"I think [James] Fisher-Harris will be available next week, if it was a semi-final he would’ve played tonight," Griffin said.
"Bryce Cartwright has had his best week of training in a month so he's going to be very close as well [in returning]."