It is a line-up of family affairs this weekend with West Tigers coach Ivan Cleary taking on his son Nathan and hopeful brothers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak going head to head against Malakai for the first time since Mal made his debut at Penrith at the beginning of the season.
In a desperate plea in keeping their finals dreams alive as they are preparing for the family rivalry to take place, Penrith is ready to host their third game in a row at Pepper Stadium this Sunday. Although both teams met back at the start of the season, things are looking a little different this round as major changes have been made in regards to the departure of coaches and both five-eighths (Te Maire Martian and Mitchell Moses).
Changes to the team lists have also been made with Panthers skipper Matt Moylan on the reserves lists as there are continuous doubts over his hamstring.
Penrith has also named Bryce Cartwright on the bench while Dean Whare is set to make a return after a broken jaw set him back a few weeks. Meanwhile, on the other side, Cleary has named the same 17 that took down the Titans over the weekend as five ex Penrith stars make up the Tigers line up.
2017 – Rd 2 Panthers 36 def. Tigers 2 at Campbelltown Stadium
2016 – Rd 24 Panthers 40 def. Tigers 10 at Pepper Stadium
2016 – Rd 17 Tigers 34 def. Panthers 26 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Rd 16 Panthers 35 def. Tigers 12 at Leichhardt Oval
2014 – Rd 17 Panthers 26 def. Tigers 10 at Leichhardt Oval
The Panthers have won two on the bounce against their fellow big cats from the west and they have both been comfortable efforts with the Penrith side winning by 34 and 30 points both home and away while the Tigers last beat the Panthers back in mid-2016 when they came home strong to win 34-26 at the former Olympic Stadium.
|Dylan Edwards||1||1||James Tedesco|
|Josh Mansour||2||2||David Nofoaluma|
|Tyrone Peachey||3||3||Esan Marsters|
|Waqa Blake||4||4||Kevin Naiqama|
|Dallin Watene-Zelezniak||5||5||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak|
|Tyrone May||6||6||Tuimoali Lolohea|
|Nathan Cleary||7||7||Luke Brooks|
|James Tamou||8||8||Aaron Woods|
|Peter Wallace||9||9||Matt McIlwrick|
|Reagan Campbell-Gillard||10||10||Tim Grant|
|Corey Harawira-Naera||11||11||Chris Lawrence|
|Isaah Yeo||12||12||Elijah Taylor|
|Moses Leota||13||13||Matthew Eisenhuth|
|Sione Katoa||14||14||Alex Twal|
|Bryce Cartwright||15||15||Sauaso Sue|
|Tim Browne||16||16||Michael Chee-Kam|
|James Fisher-Harris||17||17||Jack Littlejohn|
|Matt Moylan||18||18||Josh Aloiai|
|Dean Whare||19||19||JJ Felise|
|Viliame Kikau||20||20||Joel Edwards|
|Sitaleki Akauola||21||21||Ava Seumanufagai|
The Facts That Matter
Penrith has won an easy four out of their last five clashes together including their 36-2 win back at the beginning of the season and on a four-match winning streak as they near the top eight, Penrith are not ready to give up yet. With their wins solely based on their defence, Penrith have managed to pull a total 71 line breaks alone this season making this 37 less than the Tigers. Although their attack is not the best in the NRL this season, their defence is something that the Tigers need to keep an eye out on as the Panthers set their ways in making it to the finals.
With nearly an 80% improvement rate over the past month, the Tigers are proving harder to beat as they showcase their better foot forward under Cleary’s influence. As the Tigers are on the ‘Prowl’ Penrith must remain on guard. There is only one thing, in particular, Penrith should ultimately watch out for and that the West Tigers ability in maintaining a strong offload as it has been the one and only thing that has remained consistent throughout this season.
As the two teams are set preparing for this weekend’s clash ahead of finals, something bigger is on West Tigers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak’s mind as the family rivalry kicks in, saying he was excited to be playing on the same field as his brother, however only this time on opposite ends of the field.
When we asked about facing each other ahead of this Sunday’s game, Mal had said it was always a dream of his to play alongside Dal on the “big stage”.
“Growing up as kids we would always say how awesome it would be if we all played first grade and I was able to do it with Dal earlier this year.”
“So definitely a dream come true for me.”
“Dal was always the talented one growing up, and the better player… We all knew he was going to play first grade. But I’ll take the better player in the backyard haha”.
As his family ties remain strong, Mal had stated that his parents would more than likely sit on the fence as it would be hard for them to pick sides.
“We are a very close family and our upbringing was a great one… they haven’t come out and said who they are going for but I am sure they will be supporting the both of us.”
Moving onto the structure of the game, Mal also believes that if the tigers can shut down the what is in the front and do a good job on the defensive side that they should have no problems in taking down Penrith as they have come off the bat from a great win against the Gold Coast Titans last week.
“I think their unpredictable structure and playing what is in the front and second phase play. If we can shut that down and do a good job, I am sure it will go a long way in helping us win.”
Added to the family feel this week is the father and son clash between Panthers’ Nathan Cleary and Wests Tigers coach, and former Panthers mentor Ivan Cleary.
There had been plenty of speculation when Ivan left the Panthers that Nathan may follow him out of the club, but having stayed, Nathan has come on in leaps and bounds as a promising representative half and looks set for a big pay day as the Panthers try and lock him down.
Although Penrith currently holds the record for the number of wins against the Tigers, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has really raised the bar in recent weeks and is eager to have his team finish above 15th position on the NRL Ladder where they currently sit, which is why I predict the Tigers to win by 6. That said it is going to be a close game as Penrith will be keen to keep up their run toward finals footy.
Who will win this clash of the families, the Panthers or Tigers? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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