• Stewart Moses

LAST SAY: We've always had control of our destiny: Griffin


After Round 17, the Panthers' season was well and truly at the crossroads.

A four-game winning streak just a fortnight earlier seemed a world away as the pre-season competition favorites had just surrendered meekly at the hands of South Sydney leaving Griffin's men staring down the barrel of missing out on finals footy, four points adrift of eighth place.

But fast forward to today and the Panthers for the second time this season have dusted themselves and have clawed their back into finals contention on the back of another four game winning streak.

It hasn't been pretty and it hasn't been without it's share of injury dramas headlined by Trent Merrin, Matt Moylan, Dean Whare and now Leilani Latu.

But somehow the Panthers through some new-found resilience in defence and the game management skills of Nathan Cleary, will tonight find themselves back in the top eight should they capitalize on the faltering form of St George-Illawarra and defeat a resurgent Wests Tigers at Pepper Stadium.

However coach Anthony Griffin refutes the suggestion that heading into today's clash with the Tigers, Penrith finally have their finals destiny in their own hands because of the Dragons' consecutive losses to Newcastle and Souths, adding that the team's only focus has been what they acheive when they play, not what is happening around them.

"Whoever won or loss last night we'd always have our destiny in our own hands." Griffin responded.

"We've put ourselves in a position to finish the season off well.

"I thought that for the last four or five weeks we've had our destiny in our hands.

"Obviously you know what's happening around you but unless you're getting your two points every week, none of that matters.

"We've been pretty good the past few weeks but We just need to get our 80 minutes right and that's our focus tomorrow."

The Wests Tigers despite their lowly position will be anything but easy beats despite coming into this game having been thrashed by their opponents 36-2 back in Round Two.

In recent times, they've stretched Cronulla, Manly and Parramatta while notching up away wins against Newcastle and Gold Coast.

But while Griffin is happy with the way the team has bounced back, he admits it all counts for little if his team isn't prepared for a tough afternoon against the Tigers.

"As a group we're happy that we're progressing and I think our game's getting a little bit better every week," Griffin said.

"We've still got a lot to improve on but at this time of year if you're stringing wins together it gives you a lot of confidence and it builds a bond between the players as well.

"But again we've got to improve again to beat the Tigers.

"The Tigers are in really good form and it's going to be a really tough 80 minutes."

Photos: 77 Media

And of course there are the well-documented sub-plots that this game presents.

Griffin has been happy to go along with the hype surrounding the father-so battle between ex-Panther coach Ivan Cleary and prodigious halfback Nathan Cleary along with the first head-to-head clash between brothers Dallin and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.

"I haven't tried to keep a lid on that (hype)," Griffin replied.

"Nathan and Ivan, their both pretty calm characters themselves which I'm sure hasn't affected them.

"I haven't seen any affect on Nathan at all.

"The other two boys, it's a bit unique when you're playing your brother.

"But Dallin's got to get a job done. He's got to forget about his brother for a day and make sure he beats the other winger and get that done for the team and they can be brothers happily ever after.

Griffin confirmed that the Panthers will have to win again without Matt Moylan, which will almost certainly see Tyrone May make his third NRL appearance in the five-eighth role, with the Penrith skipper now likely to return from a troublesome hamstring injury for the blockbuster clash against the North Queensland Cowboys this Saturday night.

"Moylan's had a really low grade problem the last couple of weeks and we're just making sure that when he comes back that it's 100 percent fixed," Griffin confirmed.

"We are pretty confident it will be next week (that Moylan returns).

"I think against the Titans he came back and it wasn't quite right so since then we've had a really careful attitude towards it.

"But Tyrone's done a great job as have all the guys that have come in this year. They've all take their opportunities.

STAT ATTACK: PENRITH V WESTS TIGERS

PLAYED 30: PENRITH 18 WESTS TIGERS 12

AT PEPPER: PENRITH 9 WESTS TIGERS 7

PRIOR TO 2016 LOSS, TIGERS HAD WON THE LAST 3 STRAIGHT AT PEPPER STADIUM.

PENRITH LOOKING FOR 3 WINS IN A ROW OVER TIGERS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2009 (5 WINS)

PENRITH LOOKING FOR 6 HOME WINS IN A ROW FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2013-14 (8 WINS)

BIGGEST WIN: PENRITH 44-10 (2001); PENRITH 36-2 (2017)

BIGGEST LOSS: PENRITH 0-30 (2012)

HEAD-TO-HEAD COACHES:

ANTHONY GRIFFIN 3 IVAN CLEARY 2 (CLEARY WINNING LAST 2)

FIVE EX-PANTHERS PLAYING TODAY PLUS EX-COACH

JAMES TAMOU 3 WINS FROM 11 AGAINST TIGERS CAREER WORST RECORD AGAINST ALL CLUBS

PETER WALLACE 5 TRIES VERSUS TIGERS - CAREER HIGH AGAINST ANY NRL CLUB.

CHRIS LAWRENCE 8 TRIES VERSUS PENRITH - CAREER HIGH AGAINST ANY NRL CLUB. ALSO NEEDS ONE TRY TO SCORE MOST NRL TRIES FOR THE WESTS TIGERS (77)

JAMES TEDESCO YET TO SCORE A TRY VERSUS PENRITH - ONLY CLUB

DAVID NOFOALUMA LOOKING TO AVOID NRL LOSS NUMBER 50

#PenrithPanthers #NRLPanthersTigers #RugbyLeague #AnthonyGriffin #NathanCleary #DallinWateneZelezniak #DeanWhare #TyroneMay #brycecartwright

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