Panthers coach Anthony Griffin is not writing off tomorrow night’s home game against Souths despite dropping three high-profile players from the NRL line-up.
Griffin faced the media for the first time this morning (Thursday) following Tuesday’s announcement that captain Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku would be dropped for a breach of team protocol.
Griffin said while the three were disappointed, they handled the decision well and the team would still be focused on a win on home soil.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in the depth of our club and the quality of our players, and the people that are coming in will get an opportunity to show that,” he told reporters at Panthers’ rugby league academy in Penrith.
“We’re certainly not making decisions and thinking ‘we’ll write this game off an get on with it’. We’re 100 per cent focused on winning this game tomorrow night.”
The trio have trained well with the NSW Cup side, he said.
“No one likes getting dropped, but they understood the reasons,” Griffin said. “To their credit they didn’t play the victim, they understood the decision they made wasn’t the right thing by the team.
“They’ve trained very well with the NSW Cup … and that’s what they need to do.”
The decision was not about making an example of the team’s captain, he said.
“It’s not about making an example of anyone or trying to be derogatory to anyone,” Griffin said. “We’ve just got some things here that are important as a club like all clubs do. I’ve dealt with it the best way I think it is for our club.
“They’re good people, they’re valuable members of our club, they’ve handled the decision well as has the whole club and we’ll move on.”
Griffin also said there was never any thought of dropping Moylan as captain.
“If Matt wants to be captain of this club I am not going to stop him doing that,” Griffin said.
The trio were dropped after breaking their curfew on Saturday night after the Panthers’ 28-6 loss to Melbourne.
They will be replaced by Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Dylan Edwards and Michael Oldfield in tomorrow night’s home game.
In injury news, Bryce Cartwright was “coming along very well” following his ankle injury, and James Fisher-Harris would sit out tomorrow’s game to “err on the side of caution” following a fractured cheekbone.
“They’re both going well,” Griffin said. “Peach [Tyrone Peachey] cracked some ribs last week against Melbourne so he’s obviously not going to play tomorrow night.
“Depending how it settles down he maybe able to play next week.”