AAP Rugby

Cleary lays down hard truths to Panthers

By AAP Newswire

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has revealed a series of truth sessions in which he had urged his charges to undertake an attitude adjustment is behind their NRL resurgence over the past month.

The Panthers are seeking their fourth-straight win on Saturday night when they meet title contenders South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

After winning just two of their opening 10, the pre-season premiership fancies have burst into life.

Going into round 14, they sit two points outside the top eight and finals aren't out of the question - just two years ago, they went 11-4 to end the regular season to scrape into September action.

But Cleary warns they haven't achieved anything yet despite last week knocking off, an albeit undermanned, premiers the Sydney Roosters.

Asked about the turning point, Cleary said he was forced to confront his playing group about their attitude and while it was a tough pill to swallow, it ultimately paid off.

"We're playing as a team," Cleary said.

"It's something we discussed and, through a pretty bad run there, we weren't doing it.

"The boys understand the power of that. Gradually, we've found that and one plus one becomes three.

"We had a couple of discussions through that bad run. I think it was quite confronting for them in a way.

"That led to a couple of really bad performances. Once they worked it out and you see some results from it, then you think 'yeah, the penny probably has dropped'."

Cleary had also laid down the challenge to props James Tamou and Reagan Campbell-Gillard who are in the frame to replace David Klemmer in the NSW side for State of Origin II.

"Everyone gets motivated by different things," Cleary said.

"All you can do is play well and Freddy (Blues coach Brad Fittler) has mentioned that a few times that club form is very important. It's a good opportunity for guys to put their hands up."

The match also shapes as a final chance for Cody Walker to retain his Blues spot amid reports he is set to be replaced by Mitchell Pearce.

With skipper Sam Burgess (shoulder) out, Walker will captain the side with coach Wayne Bennett handing the 29-year-old the honour ahead of former skipper John Sutton.

Souths will welcome back fullback Alex Johnston, with youngster Corey Allan to be sent back to NSW Cup, while lock Cameron Murray is expected to play despite missing Friday's training with a virus.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Since 2012, the Rabbitohs have won eight of 11 against the Panthers, with all three Penrith win coming at Panthers Stadium

* After winning 10 of their opening 11 games, the Rabbitohs have lost their past two and will be trying to avoid three-straight losses for the first time since rounds 22-24 last year.