At times, it is hard to tell which is the more compelling drama, the play on the field, or the shenanigans going on in an NRL that cannot wait until the season is over to begin the shifting of players and coaches.
Panther’s interim coach Cameron Ciraldo must feel like a rudderless ship with broken masts as he attempts to steer Penrith down the run home following the shock dismissal on Monday of Anthony Griffin.
The Panthers should be accustomed to the unaccustomed by now. They switched to James Maloney as the captain in the middle of the season, as Peter Wallace decided he had had enough.
Maloney’s year had more than its fair share of drama. He left the Sharks, filled in a half in the early stages of the season when Nathan Cleary was out due to injury and played a key role in the Blues Origin series victory.
To think that he is anything other than exhausted would be a mistake.
Some are saying Maloney should be given a rest and it is hard to argue otherwise. He is tired. He is hurt. He should have been sidelined for a mostly meaningless game with the Canberra Raiders and the upcoming game with the midget Titans of Gold Coast would be another prime opportunity to rest the captain for the finals.
This is Maloney’s first stint as a captain and the added responsibility must be extracting a toll of some sort. All the turmoil in Penrith cannot be conducive to the mental side of his game being in top form and with Newcastle and New Zealand in the immediate future, it could be the perfect opportunity for Ciraldo to demonstrate some leadership and use Maloney sparingly, or hardly at all.
Penrith will need a fit and alert Maloney when they take on the Melbourne Storm in the final week of the season and even though that game has some finals significance, it is not critical for either club.