Hostplus Match Preview: Round 22
The most anticipated showdown of the 2017 NRL season will be at Pepper Stadium this Sunday when the Panthers welcome Wests Tigers in a Western Sydney battle of the big cats.
A traditionally fiery game given their geographical proximity, this fixture will be worth more than two competition points when Ivan Cleary goes head-to-head with son Nathan and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak lines up directly against older brother Malakai.
Cleary Senior will be out to spoil his former side’s chances of finals football, while his junior will be looking to orchestrate a similar performance that left Wests Tigers shell-shocked in Round 2. That heavy defeat started Wests Tigers’ tumultuous run of form that led to his father replacing Jason Taylor at the helm.
The family affair will also see the Watene-Zelezniak brothers take the field in opposite colours after Malakai’s mid-season switch. Malakai made his NRL debut in Panthers colours playing outside younger brother Dallin against the Rabbitohs in Round 6 but will line up directly against him on the wing this weekend.
Anthony Griffin has been forced in to one change from the side that grinded their way past the Bulldogs last Thursday with Moses Leota returning to the side at lock after Leilani Latu (jaw) was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Skipper Matt Moylan is a slim chance of making a return as he continues to battle a hamstring injury that sidelined him from the victories against Warriors and Bulldogs over the past month. Dean Whare is named in the reserves after making a try-scoring return in Intrust Super Premiership NSW last week.