The performance of Penrith's rookie halves Jarome Luai and Tyrone May is set to make life easier for Panthers coach Anthony Griffin, when he considers resting Origin stars Nathan Cleary and James Maloney after a busy representative schedule.
Griffin joked the NSW Blues representatives should be feeling nervous after the games Luai and May produced in the dominant 36-4 win over the Warriors. The pair played a hand in four of the side's six tries on Friday night.
Penrith will play Cronulla just 48 hours after NSW attempts to clean sweep Queensland on Wednesday night with the club indicating both Cleary and Maloney are likely to sit out that match due to the short turnaround.
NSW teammate Tyrone Peachey is unlikely to fall in the same category after limited minutes off the bench for the Blues, but could find himself struggling for a starting spot at the Panthers after a strong return game from Waqa Blake in the centres.
"It was good that they played well tonight," Griffin said of the rookie halves.
"We'll have a look and if it benefits the long-term of our season we will [rest the Origin halves].
Match Highlights: Panthers v Warriors - Round 17, 2018
"Cronulla is a different beast, [the Warriors] weren't at their best tonight because we forced it that way.
I thought it was a really good team effort. It was for 80 minutes and a great way to bounce back from last week [18-10 loss to Manly]."
Griffin said he had been preparing to cover the loss of Cleary and Maloney in the halves for some time with Luai handed a debut against the Knights in round 10 and May eased back into first grade after suffering an ACL injury last season.
The performance of Luai in just his second game in the NRL turned heads in particular. The 21-year-old St Marys junior represented Samoa at last year's World Cup and looked threatening with every carry to lay on a try and score two of his own.
"He was good wasn't he... got a couple of [Origin] halves in there nervous," Griffin grinned.
"They [Luai and May] got a bit of confidence when they scored first. Just to get on the board gave them a bit of confidence. It was important he [Luai] got that 20-25 minutes in Newcastle six weeks ago because we knew he was going to have to do a job here.
"It helped him tonight."
Stand-in skipper Isaah Yeo was pleased for the pair after their sparkling games.
"With our inexperienced halves they did a great job," Yeo said.
"Both he and Tyrone May are full of confidence. Given the circumstances they were exceptional."
In better news for the club, Griffin was hopeful players on the injured list would make their way back as the side looks towards the finals by currently comfortable in the top-four.
Blake was strong in his return game from an ankle injury, while Josh Mansour [cheek bone] is expected to return against the Broncos in a fortnight.
"We haven't had any [selection] headaches like that for a year, hopefully that's great for the team," Griffin said.
"[Hopefully] we can stay healthy over the next month and build a bit of depth."