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Viliame Kikau tries to make a break against the Titans.

Penrith have to stop relying on Viliame Kikau in attack and make Nathan Cleary the dominant playmaker, according to club legends Mark Geyer and Ryan Girdler.

Geyer also praised the signing of former Roosters forward Zane Tetevano, likening him to the club bringing Canterbury two-time premiership winner Peter Kelly into its ranks in 1988.

"They needed to fix their attitude in defence and I like them bringing in Zane Tetevano," Geyer told NRL.com.

"When Peter Kelly was brought to Penrith in 1988, it reminds me of that.

"He was this tough, uncompromising forward who had won comps and it rubbed off on us young blokes.

"And I think that can be the same with Tetevano. [Kurt] Capewell and [Api] Koroisau also seem perfect for Penrith too."

Cleary ready to lead

Geyer and Girdler had five years together at Penrith in between the club's two premierships – Geyer in 1991 and Girdler in 2003.

Girdler said the poor defence from last year – the Panthers conceded 20 points or more in 12 of their 13 losses – could be fixed but he was worried about the attack.

"They can't rely on big Billy," the former NSW and Australian centre said.

"It can't be a plan of 'let's get into the opposition's half and through to the left to Kikau'. Teams will be sweating on Kikau defensively this year so it can't be a one-man attack option.

"They had no problem getting the football into the opposition 20 but couldn't convert the opportunities.

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"I also think they've lost their most creative player in James Maloney. There are some good young guys coming through.

"And while Nathan is improving, he seems to like to play within structures and I think you need someone in there with a bit of unpredictability – that's what James gave them.

"The key position of who is playing No.6 is still up in the air with Jarome [Luai], Matt Burton there, and I think they need to settle on that."

Penrith use Kikau like "the best player in the under eights", according to Geyer.

"It's no good planning for a good run and hit-up and then pass to Kiks," he said.

"But I think Nathan Cleary will come of age this year. He has to, as Maloney has left a massive hole.

"When he's had a dominant half there he hasn't been used to getting his chance to express himself.

"Now he has that and I also think he's used to having his Dad around as coach now and the spotlight is not as great on father-son this time around.

"Nathan has also put on a bit of beef so I'm expecting big things from him this year."