Whare answers centre challenge
Penrith centre Dean Whare could have been forgiven for being off the pace to Saturday night's clash with the Sea Eagles after more than three years out of the finals arena through injury.
But the 27-year-old used his big-game experience to aim up when it was required against opposite number Brian Kelly on the weekend – after the young Manly centre created havoc seven days prior at Lottoland.
The return of Dylan Edwards to fullback and season-ending injury to Waqa Blake help cater the move back to the centres for Whare, with the Kiwi international making most of the opportunity.
"I felt comfortable out there, especially getting put back in the centres last week late in the game [helped]," Whare said after the win.
"[Kelly] was sharp last week and I had to be on my game. I did a lot of video on him and worked out where he was going to go.
"I think the whole right edge and especially the other side defended quite well."
Whare felt the opportunity to take on his former club again a week after they were embarrassed worked more in Penrith's favour than for the Manly side.
And the statistics support that assessment.
It was the 10th time an NRL club has reversed a result after losing to a side a week before heading into the finals series.
"The best thing for us was we got to play Manly again," Whare said.
"The boys were a lot more hungrier – Trent [Merrin] and 'Wal' (Peter Wallace) had to talk to the younger guys and get them hyped up all week.
"Finals is a different time of the year and you don't get many opportunities. I could feel we just wanted it more out there. Our defence and sets were much better."
After coming into 2017 with only 14 games in two seasons next to his name, Whare found himself down the pecking order once more after suffering a broken jaw in July.
The centre pairing of Blake and Tyrone Peachey had since hit form on the back of seven wins and the Kiwi representative was forced to play in the Intrust Super Premiership upon his return.
"It's the process we've been going through and the team we have," Whare said.
"I knew I would get another opportunity and lucky enough it's in the finals.
"It was definitely frustrating not being around the boys but I saw it as a positive and worked on my game in the Intrust Super Premiership.
"I had to get back to form coming back from major knee surgery and [find] that confidence again."
Whare faces another tough challenge on Friday night with Broncos centre Tautau Moga looming as a danger out wide for Anthony Griffin's side.
"I played him during the year and it's going to be a tough ask personally and the edge," Whare said.
"He's been in good form this year. They played well the other night and were unlucky to be where they are now.
"To fly up there is going to be a tough ask for us but I know the boys will be ready."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.