Penrith’s reputation as a fearsome defensive unit is set to continue for at least the next two years after the re-signing of hitmen Nigel Plum and Adam Docker on Wednesday.
Plum has long been thought of as the NRL’s premier tough tackler, but Docker has emerged this season as a potential contender for the crown - with both earning new deals to tie them to the Panthers until the end of the 2015 season.
Their hard-hitting combination in defence has been central to the Panthers’ recent three-match winning streak and foray into the top eight.
“It’s great to be staying on at Penrith,” Plum said in a statement.
“The team is working really well together now, we’ve had some good wins this year, and hopefully we can keep improving and finish the season off strong.”
Impressive winger David Simmons said Plum and Docker were the best defenders in the competition, and backed them to take down Canberra’s highly-rated pack.
The Raiders boast Test prop David Shillington, former NSW representative Brett White as well as up-and-comers Josh Papalii and Shaun Fensom, but Simmons believes the Panthers’ hitmen are up to the challenge.
“They’ll love it. They won’t take a backward step,” Simmons told AAP.
"We’re not scared of playing big packs. That’s not a problem.
“Plummy and Docker, I don’t think there’s anyone in the league that is tackling better than those two at the moment.”
The Panthers are missing starting props Tim Grant (broken hand) and Sam McKendry (neck), but have barely missed a beat without their representative stars.
“At the start of the season Tim Grant and Sammy were going to lead the way,” Simmons added.
"And then we had people like Mose (Masoe) and Nigel Plum coming in to back them up, it was a really strong pack.
"Lately we’ve been a bit diminished in the ranks but the guys that have come in have been unbelievable. We’ve got guys that work hard in there.
“With the way the games going and the importance of the speed of the ruck, losing a bit of size hasn’t hurt us too much.”
Masoe said Plum had been instrumental in limiting the damage caused by the loss of the team’s starting front-row.
“It’s a big loss for the team, but there’s a lot of younger boys that have been biting at the heels ready for their positions,” Masoe said.
"We’ve got Plummy and he just takes us forward all day. He’s such a good player to play alongside.
“It’s unfortunate for the other props, but it’s been good for me to be able to get back and playing at the top level.”