Bench spot pays off for Campbell-Gillard
Anthony Griffin's decision to shift Reagan Campbell-Gillard to the bench in recent weeks has given the side a much-needed boost and revitalised the prop-forward's role.
The 23-year-old has averaged 48 minutes per game in 2017 but in the past fortnight since coming off the bench has played 60 minutes straight on each occasion.
Campbell-Gillard's work rate has also lifted as a result and provided Griffin's men with spark alongside teammate Leilani Latu.
In the last two outings against the Warriors and Titans respectively, the Windsor junior has ran for over 180 metres – his best since a 209-metre effort against the Knights back in Round 4.
"The first 20 minutes it's really frantic and blows me out a little bit but coming on after 20 I kind of go up another level and can stay there," Campbell-Gillard said.
"Coming on and staying on for an extra 20 minutes, it's only for the team, I don't think it's a performance demotion so wherever he (Griffin) puts me I'll do the job.
"I feel like this year I have been playing good footy and consistently, where as in previous years I've been up and down."
The young prop is making a name for himself on the field with his strong charges back from a kick restart consistently putting his side on the front foot and firing up the crowd.
He admitted there isn't too much thinking when he charges back into the defensive line in an uncanny resemblance to former Panther Martin Lang.
"Hook's (Griffin) motto is when you carry the ball you carry the team and I've really taken that on board this year to inspire the boys," Campbell-Gillard said.
"If you think about it too much it will play on your mind. When I carry the ball I just don't think and go forward."
It's also a case of opposites attract for the former Fijian international after declaring he's of a different nature to recruit James Tamou but is nevertheless developing under the ex-Cowboy.
"He doesn't say much, Jimmy. I'm probably the idiot that starts talking and blabs on a bit more but he just sits there and watches," Campbell-Gillard said.
"I make the fool out of myself but feed off energy from Jimmy and it's vice versa.
"He's starting to play some of his best footy now, I've never been to another club and experienced a different culture there but I believe he did start a little bit slow here but is feeling a lot more comfortable now."
The Panthers face a short turnaround for their clash with Canterbury at Pepper Stadium – their second of four-straight home games at the venue.
After a strong second half against the Titans, Griffin's men will be looking at four wins on the trot to stay in reach of the top eight.
"It probably wasn't our best game that we've played but true to our status that we like to pride ourselves on we come away with the win for our fans and especially at home," Campbell-Gillard said.
"There is still 20-25 per cent of improvement left in us. We were a bit frantic there with good ball and not completing our sets.
"The Bulldogs are going to be real desperate to get a win and it's going to be tough."
With a favourable run home, Penrith have been dubbed as the only likely club outside the top eight to knock an opposition side out of the race.
Campbell-Gillard insists to keeping the focus on one game at a time with the side in no mood to ladder watch.
"If you start looking at finals your mind starts to wander and football starts to become more frantic," Campbell-Gillard said.
"We're not looking too far ahead with the finals talk and build each week as it comes."