Alexander backs Griffin to pull Panthers out of slump
The critics are growing louder as Penrith try desperately to emerge from a representative hangover but board member Greg Alexander is adamant coach Anthony Griffin is not on shaky ground.
The Panthers didn't fare so well during the Holden State of Origin/mid-season Test period with four losses from the past six matches.
They had four players represent NSW in Reagan Campbell-Gillard, halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney, and super-sub Tyrone Peachey, plus Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and James Fisher-Harris represented New Zealand in Denver, while Samoan duo Christian Crichton and Tyrone May, and Tongan hooker Sione Katoa were also called up for mid-year Test duty.
Campbell-Gillard is still out injured, hoping to return in a few weeks for the team's finals tilt, which copped a battering last Friday in Brisbane when they suffered a disastrous 50-18 loss to the Broncos.
"Last Friday night wasn't great…. there's still six weeks to go. I'm not overly concerned," Alexander said at the Fox Sports 'Retro Round' launch.
"There's good performances in them they just need to get it together," the 1991 premiership-winning skipper said, starting with Manly on Saturday at Lottoland.
"Origin is over…. Nathan, Jimmy and Peach have had time to get it all out of their system and get back to club footy.
"Injuries have certainly played their part. And we've had players in and out and we're starting to get a few back now. But Origin… it had an effect… a couple of first-timers in Peach and Nathan.
"There's no doubt that played a part. It only takes a few blokes to be off their game slightly, with the comp so close, that you get beaten comfortably."
Fixing the team's cohesion is Griffin's job, yet he is also under the media spotlight.
Alexander said the coach had nothing to worry about when asked about the scrutiny he had received in recent weeks.
"We've got two-and-a-half years to go with 'Hook' [Griffin]. So there won't be any coach departing – it won't happen," Alexander said.
"At this point in time Hook is coaching the team. He has good assistant coaches. They are working through things and that's all. Hook is not going anywhere."
But if the Panthers have a poor finals series, or don't even make the eight next year, the heat on Griffin will increase dramatically, even if he does have a 54.5 per cent winning record.
In his four years with the Broncos, he made the finals three times. In his past two seasons with Panthers he has been in both finals campaigns.
"The rumours can become as strong as they want. But if the drama within the club isn't as big as is being portrayed then there's no problem - people just get on with the job," Alexander said.
"Hook's personality is perfect for us because he's a straight shooter.
"Hook is very good at dealing with people. He's a good coach; a good manager of people. And I like the way he speaks to his players."
Penrith beat Manly but lost to the Broncos to bow out in week two of the 2017 finals.
"We've got a better team than last year. The expectation would be that they go better than they did last year," Alexander said.
"It doesn't always work like that but that's the expectation. The young players have another year under their belt; we've got James Maloney there, who is a very experienced finals campaigner."