Panthers prepared for Sharks niggle
Panthers front-rower James Tamou knows first hand the verbal banter amongst Sharks pairing James Maloney and Paul Gallen during a game in the Telstra Premiership.
Cronulla got under the skin of Craig Bellamy's Storm side in Melbourne throughout most of last Sundays' grand final rematch and Tamou expects no different this weekend when the Panthers host the defending premiers at Pepper Stadium.
Teammates with Maloney and Gallen at State of Origin level, Tamou noticed a few verbal exchanges with several Queensland representatives in the Storm line-up and said it felt like an Origin-like contest watching from the loungeroom.
"It feels like that when the Melbourne Storm play any Sydney team, but Gal (Gallen) would have taken that as a challenge with those big boys," Tamou told NRL.com.
"It was a slogging game and the Sharks did it well and up front they play an aggressive style so we're definitely going to have our hands full and will need to change the way we play to make amends."
Tamou was under no illusions the verbal barrage would continue into this week as the Panthers looked to bounce back from consecutive losses, but said Anthony Griffin's men should only be worried about their actions as opposed to words.
"There will be heated things said and teams always try to go out there to do that in hope they'll get a penalty and we know that but we'll just have to focus more on our footy," he said.
"You can't always focus on the negatives but there's been times where we've put the pressure on and then we've given away a penalty.
"There are certain disciplinary things that have let us down so far but that's a learning curve for us.
"We're still getting things together from the last few games but it starts up front for us and then hopefully we can take our opportunities at the back when we can."
The Cowboys recruit is still finding his feet at the foot of the mountains and is yet to reach last year's workload since making the move south but gets a chance to get one over another former Kangaroos teammate in Sharks prop Andrew Fifita when the two collide on Sunday.
"[Fifita's] got power behind those legs and he's unpredictable… that makes him a good footy player with that palm and the offloads," Tamou said.
"When he wants to he will wind up and bowl you over so we'll have to go in numbers to take him and the other Sharks boys down."
Panthers teammate Isaah Yeo won't be defending on Maloney's side of the field but knows the Sharks five-eighth likes to get under the skin of the opposition no matter where you are on the field.
"Jimmy has shown he can niggle it with the best of them, even though Michael Ennis has left [the Sharks]… he's just as good," Yeo told NRL.com.
"We're lucky we've got a nine-day turnaround to work on a few things after short turnarounds the last couple of weeks so that will be beneficial for us that we get an extra day or two.
"We want to tire them out as much as we can and obviously in the back row I will be out there trying to as much as I can.
"I thought the Rabbitohs got through us too much in the first half on the weekend and that’s where we want to pride ourselves but we haven't been able to produce that yet."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.