Dejected Panthers players during their comprehensive loss to the Warriors in Round 24.
Dejected Panthers players during their comprehensive loss to the Warriors in Round 24.

Brandy: Griffin axing not the reason for Panthers’ woes

PENRITH legend and deputy chairman Greg Alexander has rubbished suggestions the Panthers are in a form slump due to their change of coaches.

The Panthers took the unprecedented move of sacking Anthony Griffin despite the team being in the top eight, four weeks out from the finals.

Since Cameron Ciraldo took over the reins, the club has won one of three games, with their past two losses against Newcastle and the Warriors particularly concerning.

Alexander is also a halves advisor at the club and has been at training most days over the past three weeks and said there's still a good vibe among the playing group.

"With the current situation, and I know it was a bit of an upheaval over the past three of four weeks, but unless you're in there watching how players react, how they train and talk, you're really guessing," Alexander told Fox Sports when asked whether the players had been affected.

"I know it's easy to say Penrith made a mistake by changing coaches and that's why they're playing poor football - that isn't the reason. I know many will say you're making it up, but I'm not.

"Cameron Ciraldo, Peter Wallace … Peter Wallace played with the team this year and he's an assistant coach at the moment. He's doing a good job, Pete. He's got a good demeanour.

"But Cameron Ciraldo, he's a head coach-in-waiting. He's a very good coach and I've been impressed with what he's done. The boys respect him. It's as simple as that.

Greg Alexander says the Panthers need a big game against the Storm.
Greg Alexander says the Panthers need a big game against the Storm.

"Players don't dwell on what's happened, they're very resilient, they just get on with the job. Players can blockout that outside noise and focus on what needs to be done.

"That hasn't transferred to the field, but with what they're doing at training and the way they're talking and the attitude and the feeling among the team, I'm thinking we'll win this week, but we haven't. We haven't been able to transfer it.

"They just need to do a couple of little things different and remember to play football. They seem strangled with a lack of self-confidence at the moment.

"A good performance against Melbourne where some of those things are ironed out … I'm confidence they can do something in the finals.

Alexander said the team needed to respond against the Storm at AAMI Park on Friday night, otherwise their finals prospects were going to look grim.

With the Storm needing the win to wrap up the minor premiership and the fact that they've got a 78.1 win percentage over the Panthers, Ciraldo's men face an uphill battle.

"I'm hoping we see a big improvement, but there's not much that needs to happen to make them a better side," Alexander said.

"When you go through the games that they lost to the Warriors and Knights, if there's a little bit more thought and effort in areas, they would've been right in those games.

"It does seem a long way away at the moment from what they did at stages throughout the year - midway through the year people were saying they could win the comp."

Boosting their hopes is the return of James Maloney from injury, but Alexander reckoned their current woes extended beyond their five-eighth's recent absence.

James Maloney has been named to return from injury. (Image/Monique Harmer)
James Maloney has been named to return from injury. (Image/Monique Harmer)

"There's no doubt it's been hard without him the past couple of weeks," Alexander said.

"Even though Jimmy's form post-Origin wasn't fantastic because his body had taken a beating … he really needed a rest. The knee injury has probably been a blessing in disguise because it allowed the rest of his little niggling injuries to heal.

"But it doesn't all hinge on Jimmy, there's a lot that needs to happen that hasn't been happening over the past six weeks.

"I know we've come up with some narrow, come-from-behind wins, some amazing wins. But for those games, we played poorly for 70 or 75 minutes and were just able to stay close enough to win the game.

"There were a lot of problems with the way the team had been playing and that's been highlighted over the past couple of weeks with some pretty poor losses to the Warriors and Knights."

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