Penrith won’t play Matt Moylan in Friday’s do-or-die semi-final against Brisbane unless the skipper is given the all-clear following his counselling appointment later in the week.
Moylan’s availability for the clash against the Broncos isn’t a football selection issue, with the decision to be left in the hands of the medical experts the 26-year-old will see this week.
Penrith have reiterated their main concern is the health and wellbeing of the five-eighth and won’t be rushing him back in a bid to keep their season alive.
However there is still a slim chance he will line up against Wayne Bennett’s men in the second week of the finals series at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Given the NRL’s rules around the naming of the squads, the Panthers will have to include Moylan in their team on Tuesday afternoon to avoid having to seek a last-minute exemption from the governing body.
Fairfax Media understands the NRL is unlikely to grant Penrith the exemption if he is not named in the Panthers’ 21-man squad on Tuesday afternoon.
As of Monday night, the Panthers hadn’t decided whether they would name Moylan in the 21-man list they are required to submit to the NRL on Tuesday afternoon.
NRL rules state players outside the 21-man squad named on Tuesday are unable to play that weekend, however there are exceptions to the rule and given the sensitivity surrounding the 26-year-old’s state of mind, it will be assessed on its merit.
As of Monday night, the Panthers hadn’t approached the NRL about a potential exemption.
The match will be of particular significance to Penrith coach Anthony Griffin, who returns home to Brisbane to square off against the club that dumped him and the coach that took his job.
While his players know there’ll be added incentive to get the job done given his connection to the Broncos, they know Griffin won’t get caught up in the occasion.
“Oh yeah, no doubt it will mean a lot to him going back up there, especially in the finals,” Panthers prop James Tamou said.
“Hook is concentrating on us. He’s a team person. He has shown how much he loves the Panthers. At the start of the year he suspended a couple of players for disciplinary reasons. It goes to show what type of team he wants to build. He wants to have that mentality in all his players. That show how much he cares for the club. He’ll be concentrating on us and making sure we succeed.
“No doubt there’s a lot of emotion there. Not only for him but for all of us. I don’t think there’s one person in this team ready to stop playing. We want to go up there and do the job and make sure we’re still here next week. We really want to go up there and do our best but it’s a tough ask. They’re definitely a top-four side with class all over the field. We went up there earlier in the year and got done so it’s going to be a tough ask.”
Centre Dean Whare, who has been recalled to replace the injured Waqa Blake, said the Panthers would rely on Griffin’s knowledge of the Broncos to help them gain an edge.
“I think he loves playing against Brisbane, especially up there,” Whare said.
“They put a lot of tries on us up there earlier in the year and I think he’s hungry to make sure that doesn’t happen this time around. But he’s pretty relaxed during the week. I think he has a good record against them. He knows them quite well. He must know their back-up plans or how they play. Hopefully we can use that this week.”
The Panthers were left battered and bruised after a tough physical encounter against Manly in the opening week of the finals.
Compounding the toll on their body is the fact Brisbane will have an extra day to prepare for the match, however Whare insists the Panthers won’t be disadvantaged by the six-day turnaround.
“I think those bumps go out the window this time of year once you go out on the field,” Whare said.
“I don’t think the turnaround is an issue. With all the recovery protocols and that kind of stuff, you can get back on the field within two or three days.”