Former NRL winner Michael Ennis has explained what went wrong for Penrith Panthers against St Helens on Saturday as the NRL Champions were stunned by their Super League counterparts despite being overwhelming favourites.
To the former Cronulla Sharks hooker, the reason for Penrith’s down fall was as simple as the changes in personnel at the club.
“Penrith, we are so used to seeing Viliame Kikau damaging on that left side and unlocking Jarome Luai,” Ennis explained on Fox.
“Jarome Luai, you hardly noticed he was even there and Luke Garner in his first game for the club, he has carried the ball once.”
He would then go on to elaborate on the number nine role:
“Mitch Kenny out of dummy-half, it is a completely different tempo… watching them in that first half it is going to take some time to adjust without those key players,” Ennis said.
This comes as Luai himself hit back at this criticisms in the Canberra Times.
“Kiks has always been there on my side, but that’s what footy is about. Teams change,” Luai said.
“We faced that challenge last year, we lost some players. And the year before that.
“But I am stoked to have Gards next to me.
“We have had a pretty good five weeks together. I am happy to have got out there and had our first hit out and continue on the combination.
“Gards is pretty big himself. It’s not really about size for us.
“It’s a building thing and it’s a long year. It was our first game of the year year, and I didn’t expect our best footy in the first game of the year.”
He also defended his halfback partner Nathan Cleary for the way he celebrated the equalising goal:
“That’s all in the moment. That was a pretty big pressure kick he pulled off,” Luai said to the Canberra Times.
“He has stepped up in a lot of those moments. If people are talking crap about that, it’s pretty crazy because he has stepped up in a lot of those moments.”