Wests Tigers v Panthers: Doueihi to five-eighth; Cleary rests Origin stars

First vs last looks on paper to be a complete mismatch but much will depend on how Penrith's posse of Origin stars come through Wednesday night.

No fewer than seven of Ivan Cleary's men are part of the Blues squad for the series decider, so the Panthers mentor could be weighing up the possibility of resting players with eight rounds to go in the regular season.

No such luxury for the Tigers who need all hands on deck and firing at the same time if they are to turn CommBank Stadium into their field of dreams for the third time in 2022 after upsetting the Eels and Rabbitohs there in the space of five days in April.

That must feel like a lifetime ago for the Tigers, who have lost eight of nine since then and parted company with coach Michael Maguire, leaving Brett Kimmorley to try and salvage something from the wreck.

The Rundown
Team news

Tigers: James Roberts and David Nofoaluma dropped out on Saturday with Asu Kepaoa coming in at centre and Junior Tupou on the wing. 

Star playmaker Adam Doueihi moves to five-eighth, Jackson Hastings goes to lock and Joe Ofahengaue to prop as Brett Kimmorley searches for a winning combination. Skipper James Tamou back on deck after missing two games with a calf injury and fellow veteran Ken Maumalo (knee) also returns.

Second-gamer Justin Matamua moves to the starting side while Fonua Pole and Luke Garner go to the bench and Stefano Utoikamanu is out with a fractured wrist. Jake Simpkin has been added to the bench.

Panthers: A change on Saturday with Spencer Leniu dropping off the bench and his place taken by Lindsay Smith.

Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Jarome Luai, Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton and Api Koroisau are all being rested after Origin III with Sean O'Sullivan and Kurt Falls taking over in the halves, Robert Jennings in the centres, Charlie Staines on the wing and Mitch Kenny, Chris Smith and Matt Eisenhuth in the pack. Soni Luke is the new face on the bench in his third career game.

Key match-up
Daine Laurie vs Dylan Edwards: Laurie has been a constant threat since returning from injury in round 12, racking up 18 tackle breaks and averaging 125 running metres per match. The Tigers have lost all five of those games but without Laurie's penetration from the back they may have been beaten by even bigger margins. Edwards keeps on keeping on at Penrith, churning out 218 metres per game and busting 62 tackles for the season as he provides the perfect link between flashy playmakers Cleary and Luai and tryscoring machines Brian To'o and Taylan May. As he closes in on 100 career games, Edwards continues to enhance his reputation as one of the game's elite fullbacks.

Stat Attack
Dylan Edwards leads the Panthers in post-contact metres this season with 971 at an average of 60 per match. The elusive fullback's dynamic kick returns continue to put Penrith on the front foot before the likes of Taylan May (810 post-contact metres) and Stephen Crichton (757) carry on the good work. The Panthers lead the NRL with 10,175 post-contact metres.


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