Kikau hopes Maloney return gives him confidence boost
He shapes as one of the side's biggest strike weapons leading into the Telstra Premiership finals but Viliame Kikau admits he's coming to terms with expectation after a breakthrough season with Penrith.
A self-admitted confidence player, Kikau has gone from a bench project to marquee man in the space of 12 months but is yet to realise the impact he can have on the Panthers' charge towards a title.
Despite damaging numbers in 2018, his form has dipped in recent weeks to coincide with the injury to James Maloney and the side's overall performances since the removal of former coach Anthony Griffin.
He's welcomed the return of left-edge partner Maloney for Friday night's clash with Melbourne and hopes it sparks his own game back into form.
Maloney, one of the game's most resilient players after making an error, could provide the cog for Kikau to deliver in the finals series.
"For me, as soon as something goes wrong in my game I sort of lose that little bit of confidence and it starts to get into my head," Kikau said.
"[Cameron Ciraldo] tells me sometimes 'you don't realise the impact you have on this team, you are the go-forward of this team, we need you'. That's one thing I do keep in mind. If I do a mistake I need to learn from that as quick as I can and keep going.
"Jimmy, he's always into me. You know what he's like. He's a larrikin and he doesn't mind talking for the whole 80 minutes which is what I love about playing with him.
"If I do a silly play, like try to offload when I don't have to, he just comes up to me and he's like 'get your head back into the game, you'll be right'."
Kikau is one of the Telstra Premiership's most improved players with 98 tackle breaks, 39 offloads and 1202 post-contact metres.
Penrith rushed to re-sign the Fijian international on a long-term deal before his asking price sky-rocketed when clubs could have begun to negotiate with him in November.
"I only played nine games last year averaging like five minutes a game," Kikau said.
"To be playing 80 minutes most of the games this year in my first proper NRL season is a really big thing, my body is trying to hold up. I'm getting a painful neck, shoulders after every weekend.
"I'm just trying my best to recover and go again the next week. I think going into the finals I could feel the vibe in the club changing, everyone is excited because the finals are coming up."
Penrith could move into the top four with a big win over Melbourne at AAMI Park on Friday or finish as low as eighth with defeat to the defending premiers in the final round.