It’s father v son and Nathan Cleary is fit and ready to spearhead his high-flying Penrith Panthers as they host the resurgent Wests Tigers. Join The Roar for a live blog from 7:50pm (AEST).
The Panthers come into this encounter following an impressive win away in Newcastle.
Over the past month they’ve sustained a 2-2 record but still sit in second place, only two points off the league leaders Dragons. James Maloney has been steering the ship since Nathan Cleary limped off the ANZ Stadium pitch in Round 2, but the young half is now back to link up with his experienced partner in crime.
The ever-so versatile Tyrone Peachey keeps his starting spot but is moved to the centres, Isaah Yeo resumes his position in the second-row and Viliame Kikau is shifted to the bench.
Peter Wallace has been ruled out with injury, meaning Sione Katoa will start in his absence. Wayde Egan and Jack Hetherington rejoin the team after suspensions, replacing Kaide Ellis and Jarome Luai on the interchange.
The Tigers snapped a three-match losing run after continuing Johnathan Thurston’s abysmal record at Leichhardt Oval, scoring a 20-12 victory against one of the supposed premiership favourites.
Form counts for a lot in the NRL and a return to the winner’s circle must’ve been a major confidence boost for Ivan Cleary’s side.
Centre Mahe Fonua has been in great form, but turning up an hour late for last Sunday’s training session led to the leadership group and coach Cleary deciding to drop the Tongan international to the NSW Cup. His man-of-the-match performance against the Cowboys wasn’t enough as Cleary Sr continues to enforce a strong discipline in the club.
Kevin Naiqama will take the vacated spot, after he missed out on last week’s game due to personal reasons, but otherwise their line-up remains the same.
Yes, Nathan Cleary will be playing his first match in over two months, but he has an opportunity to make a statement, with NSW selectors and fans keeping an eye on him.
The young man will rise to the occasion, though his fitness levels could be a worry. Nonetheless, Maloney will continue to lead the team as Nathan eases into the match.
Panthers by 10.