The hype around coach Ivan Cleary facing his old club won't be as great a factor this time as these two clubs have already met this year - a 9-8 win over the Wests Tigers in extra time at Penrith Park in round four.
The question now is how and what is Cleary doing to arrest the sliding form of his team? The 30-12 loss to the Raiders in Wagga Wagga last weekend was the Panthers fourth in a row.
The Tigers won't be offering much sympathy and perhaps are even secretly rubbing their hands that the Panthers are down on a few key personnel with injuries to Viliame Kikau, Isaah Yeo and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.
Michael Maguire's men are 4-4 but will still be nursing some bruised egos after losing to the Roosters last round by 20 points. So they are just as hungry for a win.
Match: Wests Tigers v Panthers
Round 9 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wests Tigers: After Elijah Taylor and Paul Momirovski were the last two players dropped an hour before game time, Michael Chee-Kam (No.20) returns via the bench. Michael Maguire has made several changes after last week's hiding from the Roosters, with Benji Marshall set to return from a six-week injury lay-off. Ryan Matterson moves back to his preferred back-row spot, while Matt Eisenhuth replaces Josh Aloiai (concussion) at lock. Oliver Clark is the new face on the bench and there was another change to the bench on Thursday evening with Elijah Taylor being added and Luke Garner omitted. The other man left out 24 hours before kick-off was Russell Packer.
Panthers: Viliame Kikau (No.21) will start the match for the Panthers with Frank Winterstein joining Dylan Edwards as the two players omitted an hour before kick-off. Kaide Ellis and Tyrell Fuimaono were added the starting side on Thursday at the expence of Waqa Blake (disicpline) and Hame Sele (injury). Dean Whare is back from a hamstring injury in the centres allowing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to go back to the wing. Five-eighth James Maloney is free to play after being found not guilty of a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Tuesday.
Fullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Moses MbyeFullback for Panthers is number 1 Caleb Aekins
Winger for Wests Tigers is number 2 Mahe FonuaWinger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
Centre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Robert JenningsCentre for Panthers is number 3 Dean Whare
Centre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Esan MarstersCentre for Panthers is number 15 Tyrell Fuimaono
Winger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Corey ThompsonWinger for Panthers is number 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Five-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Benji MarshallFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James Maloney
Halfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke BrooksHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Wests Tigers is number 8 Ben MatulinoProp for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
Hooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Robbie FarahHooker for Panthers is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Wests Tigers is number 10 Alex TwalProp for Panthers is number 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Ryan Matterson2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 James Fisher-Harris
2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Chris McQueen2nd Row for Panthers is number 21 Viliame Kikau
Lock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Matthew EisenhuthLock for Panthers is number 19 Kaide Ellis
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 14 Jacob LiddleInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Sione Katoa
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Thomas MikaeleInterchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Oliver ClarkInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Tim Grant
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 20 Michael Chee-KamInterchange for Panthers is number 18 Jarome Luai
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Referee: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Clayton Sharpe
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Video Referee: Beau Scott
- Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell
Luke Brooks, the reigning Dally M halfback of the year, is up against the incumbent NSW Origin halfback in Nathan Cleary. The had a field goal kick-a-thon last time these two sides met, with Brooks missing twice and Cleary nailing his one chance. But Brooks is ahead slightly on try assists (5-4) and should be reunited with his No.6 Benji Marshall (hamstring) for the first time since round three.
For the Tigers to win
They need to tighten their edge defence, especially their right side. Five of the seven Roosters tries came down their left channel. They also need fullback Moses Mbye to get more involved again, after he had a far greater impact last weekend despite the heavy loss. The skipper made a line-break, topped his team's run metre count (129), alongside his 55 post-contact metres and four tackle-breaks.
For the Panthers to win
They need to finish off their sets with far more zing - come on down Origin halves Cleary and James Maloney. Last weekend the Panthers were equal with the Raiders on line breaks and tackle busts, but woeful on completions - 27 from 41 - for a 66% rate. It is stifling their attack because their error rate (13) was only three more than the Raiders, so ball-handling isn't the central issue.
Brett Kimmorley says
The Panthers keep on losing troops. The pressure now goes onto Nathan Cleary. He’s the Origin half and needs to start standing up and forcing Freddie to pick him. Penrith beat themselves with penalties and errors last weekend. The Wests Tigers got an education from the best last weekend. I expect them to fight tooth and nail over the things that require no skill – line speed, kick-chase and energy. They can respond to that. Tigers by 4
Esan Marsters is in the top-five for tackle breaks and the top-10 for points scoring so is staking his claim for being one player Ivan Cleary needs to devote some video work on for his right-side defenders, where as previously mentioned he could be down a few troops with Yeo and Watene-Zelezniak under injury clouds.
And another thing ...
Prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard is set to play his 100th NRL game and the interest might lie in whether he starts or comes off the bench. He was highly effective as an interchange forward last week playing 62 minutes, making 110 metres off 12 runs with 42 post-contact metres.