AAP Rugby

First RGC, then Cleary for Panthers stable

By AAP Newswire

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is hopeful nailing down a stable squad will be a key factor when star halfback Nathan Cleary begins negotiations on a contract extension at the end of the year.

The Panthers on Thursday re-signed prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard to the second-longest deal in the league, tying him to the club until the end of the 2024 season.

He is now the 13th player to commit to the foot of the mountains for at least the next two seasons, with Cleary one of the few notable names to come off contract next year.

Nathan and father Ivan - current coach of the Wests Tigers - have made no secret of their desire to partner up in the future, however talks on the halfback's future have been postponed until November.

Griffin is banking on the club's ability to keep the bulk of their squad together to be a major selling point when the NSW State of Origin halfback sorts out his long-term plans.

"There's stability here, and his combination with (James Maloney) now as well, both here and at rep level, I think that just gives him some confidence about where the club's going as well," Griffin said.

"Obviously that's something the club's working through. Once Origin's over, and now that there's a lot of other guys that are settled here, obviously Nathan's someone the club will want to work on as well."

Griffin confirmed all eight of his representative players - including his State of Origin trio headed by Cleary - will play against Manly when they resume club competition on Saturday.

Kiwi duo Dallin Waten-Zelezniak and James Fisher-Harris trained strongly on Thursday after returning on Wednesday morning following their delayed flights from the United States.

For Manly, coach Trent Barrett said he wasn't confident in prop Martin Taupau playing after two delayed flights meant he only arrived back in the country on Thursday.

The club is believed to have got clearance from the NRL to give hooker Manase Fainu his debut after unwanted Jackson Hastings was released, while Brad Parker replaces an injured Akuila Uate.

Dylan Walker also makes his anticipated return from a fractured cheekbone and will play in the halves in place of benched playmaker Trent Hodkinson.

A win for the third-placed Panthers would entrench their spot in the top four, while the 14th-placed Sea Eagles are currently 10 points out of the top eight.

STATS THAT MATTER

- Manly have failed to score 12 points in their past five matches at Penrith. If they do so again, it will be the fourth time in club history they have failed to do so at any venue.

- Penrith have won all six of their games at Panthers Stadium this season, and 12 of their past 13. They haven't won their opening seven games at home in 30 years.

- Martin Taupau leads the NRL in offloads with 51 and is third among forwards in running metres.