Trio's absence 'big loss'

THEY'RE fresh from a bye, high in confidence and tight-knit from a two-night getaway to Kiama earlier this week.

But with three of their star performers missing, Dayne Weston knows the Panthers are set for a difficult task in outmuscling the New Zealand Warriors when the two sides clash at Centrebet Stadium on Monday evening.

Club stalwart Luke Lewis, speedster Michael Jennings and prop Tim Grant are unavailable due to NSW State of Origin duties and Weston said the entire team must step up to minimise the impact the trio's absence.

"It's a big loss having three boys out," Weston said.

"They're a big part of our side and it's disappointing but that's footy.

"I think we can still put in a great performance without them but everyone has just got to put in that little bit extra."

The ferocious strength and menacing wit of the Warriors are their most intimidating assets, according to Weston.

"They're a physical side," he said.

"They're very skillful and their ability to play second phase footy hurts a lot of sides — that's their strong point.

"They just play what they see and they're very dangerous at it."

Thus, Weston said overpowering their visiting opponent, which they've done on home turf on seven of 14 occasions, would require merciless defence.

"If that's all in line, your attack looks after itself, so it'll go a long way," he said.

With two wins from their past three games, the Panthers have begun to quash their dire start to the season and Weston said they'd taken a massive amount of confidence out of their most recent 22-4 victory over the Manly Sea-Eagles.

"I think that was our best win of the year," he said.

"So if we can take what we did against Manly and carry that into the game against the Warriors, with defence, a full 80-minute performance and a strong finish, I'm pretty confident we can do the job."

Watching Weston battle the Warriors will be fellow prop Grant, who 48 hours later will make his Blues debut in Origin II.

Despite having to play the club match without him, Weston was stoked Grant defied his on-going calf injury to earn the call-up.

"With being out injured, he thought it was all gone," Weston said.

"I'm ecstatic for him and hopefully one day I line up next to him."

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