An emotional Ivan Cleary has conceded changes need to be made at Panthers after a diabolical first half performance against the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium.
The Panthers leaked 20 points in the first 11 minutes of the game and went into the sheds trailing 26-4 to fall to their fifth consecutive loss, now sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder after nine rounds.
Considered among the premiership favourites at the start of 2019, the loss was a sobering reminder of how far they have to go to challenge an NRL title. The strain on Cleary’s face was evident as he fronted the post-match press conference, admitting the Penrith job is ‘maybe’ bigger than he imagined and he has more questions than answers about the team’s poor form.
“You can’t win the game in the first 20 minutes but you can lose it,” he said, saying the club will be having some tough conversations over the next 24 hours.
“I don’t want to go into it right now. We’re going to have to look at everything we’re doing or have done.
“The first 20 minutes … you can’t just walk by that, there’s obviously things we need to discuss.
“But if we get to the bottom of it, we can turn it around. That’s what we’ve got to do. Where we go from here … we can definitely turn it around but there needs to be some change.
“It’s never as bad as it seems, but it doesn’t feel good tonight.”
Admitting ’not much’ was said in the sheds afterwards, follow up questions logically arise over Penrith’s depth and what, if any, positional changes can be made.
“It depends how many changes you want to make,” he said.
“We have to change something, whether that’s personnel or something else. We definitely have to make some changes. If we keep doing what we’re doing it’s not good enough.”
Pressure is mounting on Blues halves combination James Maloney and Nathan Cleary to retain their place in Brad Fittler’s Origin team when it is announced in a fortnight.
Cleary defended his halves, saying the blame does not lie with them, but was at a loss to explain whether it is an effort or execution problem with his playing group.
However, he said he does not feel under pressure to justify his job.
“I don’t feel pressure to justify anything but it’s my responsibility,” he said.
“When we’re sitting where we’re sitting it’s a big responsibility. We’ll keep chipping away at it.
“We need to do some serious reflection and we’ll talk a bit more over the next 24 hours.
”We’ll have to look pretty closely at a lot of things.”
Asked what he would say to the Penrith faithful who travelled to Brisbane for the NRL’s Magic Round to see them, he didn’t mince his words.
“Keep the faith. I feel for the fans. I feel for anyone who supports us when we toss up that.”