Panthers seek to spark attack after slow start to NRL

George Clarke |

A new deal for centre Izack Tago (c) is getting closer as Penrith look to sharpen their attack.
A new deal for centre Izack Tago (c) is getting closer as Penrith look to sharpen their attack.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is refusing to panic about his side’s scoreless start to the NRL season as the Panthers make moves to lock down the services of strike centre Izack Tago. 

In what represents a coup for the Panthers given the top-line talent that has been picked off by rival clubs in recent seasons, Tago is close to agreeing a new deal at the three-time back-to-back premiers.

Cleary would not confirm Tago had re-committed to the club, but told reporters on Monday: “Izack is one of our juniors and still only 21 and that’s hard to believe.

“He’s already won two comps and played for his country so I can only see better ahead for him and hopefully he will be with us for some time (yet).”

While the Panthers work to extend Tago’s deal, the more immediate concern for Cleary is fixing their attack after an 8-0 defeat away to Melbourne in their season opener.

Taking their World Club Challenge defeat to Wigan into account, Penrith have not crossed for a try in more than two hours of game-time. 

Dylan Edwards of Penrith runs with the ball against Melbourne.
Penrith failed to register a try in their season-opening NRL defeat to Melbourne. (Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS)

Cleary will be looking for a marked improvement at home on Friday against Parramatta, who beat them in both regular-season meetings between the clubs last year.

“Every team is similar at the start of the season … and we’re no different,” Cleary said. 

“Some guys have done more training and played more trials than others and we’re clearly still trying to find our feet in that regard. 

“We also got a little bit clunky, kind of chasing down points at the end of the game.

“We’re probably trying too hard. To the Storm’s credit their scramble was outstanding and they frustrated us as well. 

“(It is) all the stuff you have got to go through games to iron out, and we’ll take plenty from the (Melbourne) game.”