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Panthers assistant coach Trent Barrett.

Head coach Ivan Cleary and his assistant Trent Barrett have set the boundaries in their working environment for the rest of the season, in terms of any Panthers players looking to follow Barrett to the Bulldogs in 2021.

Barrett, who signed a three-year deal with the Belmore club this week, has said he won't be talking about his new role until the end of the Panthers season this year.

But that won't stop speculation of which Panthers might look to join Barrett at the Bulldogs to continue, or even start, their NRL careers.

"It's very clear our relationship and the one moving forward – what's OK and what's not," Cleary said Saturday, at the Panthers' final training session before heading to the Gold Coast and Cbus Stadium on Sunday to play the Titans.

Cleary said he hadn't given any thought to who he might bring in as an assistant when Barrett moves on in November.

"I'm too focused on what I'm doing at the moment. I know exactly what we need so that's comforting," Cleary said.

He's got more urgent matters on his mind – playing a strengthening Titans outfit with the return of Kevin Proctor and Dale Copely, while the Panthers have lost two key attacking spine members in fullback Dylan Edwards (hamstring) and hooker Api Koroisau (elbow). In comes Caleb Aekins at No.1 and Mitch Kenny at No.9.

Brent Naden moves to centre for Dean Whare (thigh) and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak comes onto the wing.

Titans v Panthers - Round 11

"We've certainly got our share of injuries this week. We're fielding a very inexperienced side by far, or the least inexperienced in the league," Cleary said.

"So definitely a challenge for our systems and our culture. We've got some guys coming in who have been involved [in the NRL] in the past and because it's the sort of year with no other football those guys want the opportunity.

"We hope to see that energy transfer onto the field."

Koroisau in particular has been a vital cog in the Panthers machine winning eight from 10 games this season. Cleary said there was no need to pull Kenny aside and give him the pep talk to play his own game and not try to emulate the Fijian international.

"The boys gave him enough stick this week about trying to live up to Api so I didn't have to say anything," Cleary said.

"Mitch is a smart kid who knows the strengths of his game and the strengths of Api's. They are different players so that conversation didn't last long."

The improved version of the Titans under new coach Justin Holbrook – himself a former Panther – is one thing but Cleary remembers the old version and how they could rear up and bite sides who didn't give them due respect.

"The last home they won was against us ... and it's the first time we've travelled [interstate] as well," Cleary said. 

But he does have a one-man attacking and defensive unit in James Fisher-Harris, who averages 17 hit-ups and 198 metres per match.

"He was our player of the year last year by far – daylight second," Cleary said.

"His role is a little different this year where he's paying front row... last year he played lock a lot. So it means he gets a few more carries in a set but he's still got all the variations – good passing game, good offload knows how to run hard and straight.

"Defensively he's very good – a real good team man too. He's done it all himself. He's coming up to the 100-game mark so he's comfortable where he sits not only in the team but in the game."

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