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Panthers back-rower Viliame Kikau.

Viliame Kikau isn't fazed by a significant drop in his game time under Ivan Cleary this season as the Panthers coach continues to juggle a three-way edge rotation at the club.

Kikau started the season in blistering fashion for the competition leaders but has been statistically down by his usual standards in recent weeks with no line breaks and just three tackle busts recorded to his name.

The Fijian international's minutes have dropped from a 67-minute average last year to 55 minutes per game this season with Kurt Capewell and Liam Martin's output making up for the lost time.

Cleary dismissed any concerns over Kikau's recent run of form following last week's win over the Sea Eagles and the Panthers enforcer echoed the coach's thoughts this week.

"The last couple of years my attack has always been highlighted as good but I'm trying to work on my defence and have that mentality," Kikau told NRL.com.

"I've still got a lot to work on. When you're winning you're still grateful but there's stuff you can work on for the next week.

"I don't want to be known as the guy who does everything in attack but can't defend. It's important to finish off your plays as well.

Panthers v Sharks - Round 9

"There's been a few errors from me but the good thing is when you win you can still learn.

"You've got to manage your game that way and that's what I'm going to do this year."

Kikau and the Panthers watched Melbourne put the Sharks to the sword at their hotel in Bathurst last week as they prepare to face the struggling outfit on Friday night.

The Panthers dominated the corresponding games between the two sides last season by an aggregate 94-36 scoreline across two matches.

"They stood up to Melbourne in the first half so we need to be mindful of that and not take them lightly," Kikau said.

"You want to get into a contest with them, go through a cycle and stick with it.

"That's what we did with Manly, we wanted to win the field position and defend what they were throwing us in attack as well.

"We know we can score points but we have to do the hard work first before we get those opportunities."

The match will also prove the final opportunity for Panthers half Matt Burton to retain his spot in the centres with Paul Momirovski due back from suspension next week.

Burton has been playing alongside Kikau for the past fortnight and has made it almost impossible for Cleary to relegate him to reserve grade with Stephen Crichton filling in on the right edge.

"There's definitely heaps going on with the left side and I'm just glad I'm not the coach because that's a headache down the track," Kikau said.

"All I'll say is good luck to Ivan with that decision."

 

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