Panthers’ fill-ins up for challenge, says Whare
PANTHERS centre Dean Whare believes the strong depth at his club will get it through a horror injury toll and tricky draw leading into the finals.
Peter Wallace, Isaac John, Tyrone Peachey, Elijah Taylor, Brent Kite and Bryce Cartwright are the big names missing, all with long-term injuries.
Add to that the run home for the mountain men, which includes games against the Dragons (at WIN Stadium today), the Cowboys, Storm, Sea Eagles and Warriors.
With all that in mind, you might then understand that, despite their third-placed position, not many are giving the Panthers a chance at premiership glory.
Whare not only likes this, but has every confidence the players that have been called up to fill so many holes will excel.
"We don't mind the fact that nobody is talking about us. It doesn't feel weird and we're comfortable with it," the New Zealand representative told APN.
"The great thing is that there isn't one standout here - we all play as a team."
Whare said one of coach Ivan Cleary's many strengths was his ability to develop an entire squad, and not just the regular first-graders.
"We've got a good system here, where half our Premier League team has played first grade, so it doesn't feel like such a big jump when they get a call-up," Whare said.
"A good example is (New South Wales representative prop) Tim Grant coming in for Brent Kite this weekend."
Whare said Jamie Soward, who has excelled at halfback in skipper Wallace's absence, was more than ready to captain the team if called upon, in his first return to the home of his former club.
"Jamie's been upbeat all week, and he can't wait to play his old team," Whare said.
"It'd be a big challenge for him, but he's up to it - he's won Origin games and a grand final before."
Whare said he was looking forward to opposing fellow Kiwi representative and Dragons centre Gerard Beale today.
"We've played each other since we were 18 and I've roomed with him for New Zealand. He's got a great all-round game so I'm looking forward to it," Whare said.
Whare has enjoyed an outstanding 2014, with 10 tries to his name so far.
PANTHERS' INJURY WOES
- George Jennings (elbow) - season
- Isaac John (achilles) - season
- Peter Wallace (knee) - season
- Tyrone Peachey (pec) - indefinite
- Elijah Taylor (knee) - season
- Brent Kite (pec) - finals
- Bryce Cartwright (ankle) - season