Whare's call for early ball
Panthers centre Dean Whare is relishing just being back on the field but hopes to see more ball before the season is over.
Despite Anthony Griffin's side impressing with four-straight wins prior to the Cowboys loss on the weekend, the Kiwi international had minimal input in the month of victories - averaging just 56 metres per game.
It proved a breakout performance for Whare against the Cowboys as the 27-year-old ran for a season-high 137 metres with a first-half line-break.
The return of former Australian winger Josh Mansour and strong form of Isaah Yeo on the left edge has prompted the new halves paring of Matt Moylan and Nathan Cleary to target the right side edges of the opposition defensively with Whare and Kiwi winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak barely utilised in the past month of football.
The trend may continue on Sunday with former Panthers winger Braidon Burns named to line-up on the right flank for the Bunnies. It proved a forgettable night for the young rookie back in Round 6 with former teammate Nathan Cleary creating havoc at the back with a series of spiralling kicks.
"The last few weeks I haven't been getting much ball and we've been winning a few more games," Whare said.
"Especially with Waqa [Blake] on the outside there, getting a bit more ball to help the team is only going to be more of a positive.
"We didn't have that composure at the start of the year [against the Rabbitohs] and had a few boys out.
"Especially after that Melbourne game, but now we've got a few boys back we learnt a lot from that game and with 'Moyza' now in the halves there is a lot of composure there now."
Whare's comeback to the Telstra Premiership after a season-ending ACL injury in 2016 has gone to plan, but according to the former Sea Eagle it will mean little if the side cannot finish the season with a finals berth.
Eight players remain in the side on Sunday that were beaten by the Raiders in the second week of the finals last year.
"Every win is crucial at this stage and the more we can get will put us in a position where we'll be in the eight," Whare said.
"Finishing the season early is not something we want to do, especially for myself watching the finals footy is one of the hardest things to do each year.
"To get into the final eight is something some of the boys haven't been in but others that were there last year know how exciting it was and we all want to get there again."
After scraping into the top eight a fortnight ago, the loss against the Cowboys who were without Johnathan Thurston has halted their momentum, however with a good run home Griffin's outfit should put pressure on the Eels and Cowboys in coming weeks.
A win over the Rabbitohs on Sunday will keep the Panthers in range and all but put an end to the Bunnies' slim finals hopes.
"I think we're building nicely but have just shot ourselves in the foot the last two games," Whare said.
"We were lucky to get away with the Canberra game but the Cowboys were just too good to finish strong. Everyone was very disappointed after the roll on we've been on the last few weeks. To go down like that in the last two minutes was even more heartbreaking."
It was too echoed by Whare that the positional move of Moylan into the halves has been a catalyst for the Panthers' revival in 2017 after only two wins in their opening nine games.
"The [Rep Round] bye came at the right time for us and some positional changes helped the momentum shift in our direction," he said.
"To come in the front line and way [Moylan] defends at the line works well.
"Over the last few years we knew he could play there, it was just a matter of when he was going to get there and then finding a replacement at fullback.
"Dylan [Edwards] has been awesome for us with his running and carries."