Panthers coach faces selection headache - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Panthers coach faces selection headache

By Steve Jancetic 05/09/2010 10:55:56 AM Comments (0)

Penrith coach Matthew Elliott concedes he is facing a selection headache ahead of the Panthers return to the NRL finals this weekend - ending the longest finals drought of any side in the competition.

Penrith locked up second spot with a 50-12 hammering of Cronulla on Saturday night, a win achieved without suspended skipper Petero Civoniceva and injured trio Luke Walsh, Luke Lewis and Lachlan Coote.

While Civoniceva won't return for another week, the other three are all expected to be available for selection this weekend, leaving Elliott with a dilemma as he attempts find spots for them in his squad.

Smith will walk back into the side at lock and Walsh will resume in the No.7 jumper, but the recent form of Wade Graham in the halves and Michael Gordon at fullback makes other decisions less clear-cut.

Having seemingly been banished after signing for Cronulla for next season, Graham is back in favour and pushing Travis Burns for a start at five-eighth, while NSW winger Gordon has taken his game to another level since being switched to the back to fill in for Coote.

"It (Graham's performance) was pretty impressive, and Travis is just such a terrier," Elliott said.

"I'm really pleased the way Wade played ... I've got some dilemmas to face which is fantastic."

Coote has been on the cusp of a return from groin injury for the last fortnight, but Elliott said he expected to have him available for selection for week one of the finals.

"I saw Cootey running (on Saturday) and I had a chip at our physio - he was flying," Elliott said.

"Apparently that's just in a straight line, but I don't know what other direction you need to run.

"So he looked good and he's going to be available for selection - that's a headache that one, that's a headache for sure."

Gordon said he would happily slip back to the wing to accommodate Coote's return.

"I'll play wherever, I'm not too fussed," Gordon said.

"If (Coote's) back it's good for our team. He's probably best at fullback rather than the wing.

"His form before he got injured was pretty special so having him in the team's going to be a bonus for us."

Having finally put a year to forget to bed, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said the performance was a reality check after a strong run of results in recent weeks.

"I'm really disappointed in our effort ... maybe last week took a bit out of them but that's their job, they're NRL players," Flanagan said after watching side concede nine tries.

"One good thing out of it for me is I know I've got a lot of work to do in the off-season and that reinforces it tonight.

"Maybe if we'd had another win it would have glossed over it a touch and I would have got a warm fuzzy feeling, but it puts me back to where I need to be."

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