Gutted Cleary’s shattering confession
PENRITH coach Ivan Cleary has promised to launch an investigation after the Panthers' 30-4 Magic Round thumping at the hands of the Wests Tigers.
The flogging all but ended the Panthers' finals hopes as they provisionally slumped to last spot following the six-tries-to-one carve-up at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
After coming into 2019 highly fancied for the title, they require 10 wins from their remaining 15 games to make the top eight.
Cleary, who returned to Penrith after a bitter split from the Tigers, could be forgiven for feeling the pressure.
The dejected coach was short on answers post-game but promised to get to the bottom of it - leaving the door open for changes to his 17 and football department.
"There's more questions than answers," he said.
"It's fair to say we're gonna have to look at everything we're doing. There needs to be some serious reflection and we'll talk more over the next 24 hours."
Many of the 35,122 in attendance hadn't even taken their seats by the time the game was as good as over at 24-0 after 18 minutes.
The Tigers led 26-4 lead at half-time but failed to go for the jugular in the second half, partially due to the wet conditions in the final 40 minutes.
The floodgates opened in the fourth minute when James Maloney - the most penalised player in the competition - was pinged for a flop and, off the back of it, Moses Mbye went over after Brooks sliced through.
Cleary made the brave decision on game eve to drop right centre Waqa Blake after he missed training, with Tyrell Fuimaono taking his spot in the backline.
And the Tigers exploited the lack of cohesion caused by the reshuffle, running in back-to-back tries down their left side through Brooks and Esan Marsters.
Cleary reacted by switching Fuimaono to the opposite flank and after a Benji Marshall 40-20, the Tigers stripped their rivals for numbers down the Panthers' left edge and went over through Corey Thompson to make it 20-0 after 13 minutes.
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary said he and his teammates had been "too nice" to each other after letting their standards slide this season.
He said the squad, himself included, were guilty of letting things slip on the training paddock and he and his teammates needed to be harder on each other.
"As soon as we step out on to the training paddock, we need to do things right and be honest with each other and hold each other accountable," Cleary said.
"We're probably being too nice to each other early on this year.
"I think everyone is hurting right now, and rightly so. No one intends to lose games. It's just not up to scratch.
"The little things you just let go by on the training field, it comes down to accountability and responsibility within the team.
"I've been guilty of that myself, I have to look at my own game."
Cleary said with his side at 2-7, he was finding it hard to contemplate representative duties. He wouldn't be drawn on whether he expected to retain his NSW State of Origin jumper.
Five-eighth James Maloney, also struggling to stay in Blues contention, said he didn't have any answers.
Throughout his career, success has followed Maloney wherever he has gone. He reached a grand final with the Warriors and won titles with the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla.
He admitted he had never been in a side in such a dire situation.
"I didn't see any of this coming. I've never been in this position like this. It's new for me," Maloney said.
"I don't have the answers. If I had the answers, we wouldn't be in this situation."
- with AAP