He’s probably one of the more divisive coaches in the game right now, which is a big effort from a bloke who doesn’t say all that much, but Anthony Griffin could be facing the consequences of a season-ending loss to the Brisbane Broncos.
The defeat meant his side, joint Premiership favourites during the pre-season, would not be moving on to challenge the Melbourne Storm next week in the preliminary final.
Griffin supporters are some of the louder, more ardent fans in the game, while his detractors are equally bullish and came out in droves last night after the Panthers attack sputtered and stuttered their way to a lone try despite dominating possession and territory.
Running out of ideas
There is a persistent school of thought that the former Broncos mentor has run out of ideas in structuring the Panthers attack and has finished the season coasting on the individual talent of players, like rising-star Nathan Cleary.
The genuine concern lies around the fact that this current Penrith side seems to offer the potential for so much electric, attacking football. They hold a young spine with the freakish Cleary at half-back, the ebullient and dynamic Dylan Edwards, the lanky but dangerous Tyrone May in the pivot role and the wily veteran Peter Wallace at hooker. Add in Reagan Campbell-Gillard to an exciting forward pack and it’s easy to see why some fans are dissapointed with the Panthers’ attacking displays.
Instead, they take more tackles inside an opponent’s 20m line to score points than any team in the league. There is far too much side-to-side movement with little to no impact, followed by forced or rushed fifth tackle options which rarely result in repeat sets or points.
Cleary is capable of delivering a pinpoint, spiralling bomb which can be a nightmare for a fullback or winger to deal with. But that seems like the Panthers’ only effective fifth tackle option and it becomes easy to deal with, especially once the chasing pack tire. Last night, the bomb dragged an error out of fullback Kodi Nikorima on just one occasion while wingers David Mead and Jordan Kahu barely looked phased by the challenge.
A lack of creativity
With ball in hand, the Panthers are beginning to look equally bereft of creativity and ideas. A sweeping shift to the right, with Cleary trying to take advantage of the strong line-running of fringe-dweller Corey Harawira-Naera, has worked on occasion this season but is too predictable. The defenders were all over Harawira-Naera from the moment he touched the ball, giving him no room to run and forcing errors.
Losing Tyrone May with a concerning knee issue against the Broncos but the Panthers lacked any real penetration and looked impotent even before he went off.One loss doesn’t change everything, and won’t send someone like Phil Gould rushing to rip up the playbook and start all over.
Now the season has ended, a genuine and thorough review of all areas of the operation should be undertaken. Any steps in the right direction, be that a new coach at the helm or the backing of Griffin, need to be put in place as soon as possible.
There’s far too much vibrant, young talent on this Penrith roster to give up the ghost. But 2003 is starting to feel like a lifetime ago, and patience is wearing thin amongst even some of the more ardent true believers.
Should Penrith back Anthony Griffin, or look for a new head coach for 2018? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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