Unheralded trio propelling Panthers - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Unheralded trio propelling Panthers

By Steve Jancetic 04/06/2010 07:23:48 PM Comments (0)

While representative trio Petero Civoniceva, Luke Lewis and Trent Waterhouse were given much of the credit for Penrith's stellar start to the NRL season, there's a less noticeable triumvirate which has been just as crucial to success.

Lachlan Coote, Luke Walsh and Kevin Kingston are a long way from State of Origin, with the latter only playing NRL after the Panthers threw him a lifeline when the hooker was cut following Parramatta's grand final appearance in 2009.

But as fullback, halfback and hooker, they have formed a destructive partnership this season, propelling Penrith into third spot on the ladder heading into Saturday's home clash with Newcastle when many predicted the perennial underachievers would miss the finals for a sixth straight year.

Coote, Walsh and Kingston have appeared in all 11 games in 2010, providing coach Matt Elliott with a consistent spine his sides haven't had in recent years.

Even last year, when Walsh arrived mid-season to end the club's long search for a permanent replacement for former skipper Craig Gower, Coote soon found himself on the sidelines with a ankle injury that prematurely ended his season.

"We had to start a new combination between me and Walshy, we hadn't really worked on it, it just came about in games," Coote said.

"It's great to have that consistency there, with him and Burnsy (five-eighth Travis Burns) and Kevie - hopefully it doesn't get broken up because of injury or something."

Injury has robbed the Panthers of skipper Civoniceva (broken hand), with Coote saying his absence was noticeable in last weekend's loss to South Sydney.

And it wasn't just the 150 metres and 22 tackles a game that the Panthers were missing.

"He's a massive influence on our side, just his leadership and the way he carts the ball up all the time - he gets you out of trouble when you need it," Coote said.

"But there's other leaders in our side and Timmy Grant's been great for us up front, he's been massive the last few weeks."

While veteran backrower Steve Simpson was ruled out earlier in the week with ongoing issues with a degenerative knee injury, the Knights received a boost on Friday with Cameron Ciraldo passing a fitness test on his hamstring.

Shannon McDonnell will also make an earlier than expected return from a knee injury suffered a fortnight ago against the Sydney Roosters, McDonnell to start at fullback with Wes Naiqama going back to an extended bench, which will be trimmed on Saturday.

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