Matthew Moylan of the Panthers.
Matthew Moylan of the Panthers. JULIAN SMITH

Star trio's axing puts Panthers boss in tricky position

DEPENDING on who you ask, Anthony Griffin's decision to dump his skipper and two other big names to reserve grade for disciplinary reasons was either extremely brave or extremely stupid.

In the "brave" camp are those who believe a strong club culture starts with accountability. Even if that means making examples of your shiniest stars, the punishment will bring reward, if not tomorrow then in the not too distant future.

In the "stupid" camp are those who think Griffin wields a big stick and uses it too hastily, perhaps even carelessly.

It's a fine line and there's no doubt the results play into it. Had the Panthers managed to drag themselves on to the other side of their one-point loss to the Rabbitohs, there's no doubt the queue to congratulate Griffin on his tough stand would have been a lot longer than the one diminishing him for it.

That's part of the game and now the man they call "Hook" has placed himself in a position where he'll be judged, good or bad, on the response he gets from his team, and more specifically the scalded trio.

So it is that on Easter Sunday all eyes will turn to Peta Hiku, Waqa Blake and Matt Moylan.

Assuming they're all picked, they'll come back into a side that sits 12th on the ladder and with just two wins from six in their account.

It's not only off the field where cracks have appeared in a side that entered 2017 among the premiership favourites.

If there's a team that can turn an opponent's cracks into canyons it's the reigning premiers and the Sharks are coming off their best win of the season, having just visited Melbourne and come home with two points for the first time in their history.

It's the ultimate pressure test and the man whose performance will be most representative of Griffin's bold call will be the freakish fullback who just last year was chosen to lead the club into the future.

As captain, Moylan's axing was the biggest shock, and in the week since the news broke stories have emerged of a larrikin streak that still sits close to the surface of the No.1's character and sometimes gets in the way of example.

According to NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent, Moylan has sailed close to the wind on a number of occasions before and finally he forced Griffin to act.

Perhaps the real question in all this is for the coach: did he make the right call when he handed Moylan the reins?

News Corp Australia


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