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Penrith young guns Viliame Kikau and Christian Crichton are prime examples of the work Garth Brennan put in as an assistant coach at the Panthers.

The now Gold Coast Titans mentor will return to the foot of the mountains on Sunday looking to take down a club he heavily helped build for five seasons.

Kikau and Crichton faced different scenarios in the Intrust Super Premiership last season and used Brennan's guidance to go to a new level this year.

Kikau made his NRL Telstra Premiership debut in 2017 but was restricted to nine appearances and struggled with inconsistency.

He floated in and out of first grade and credited Brennan for playing a key part in keeping the back-rower upbeat after being demoted.

"He kept telling me to work hard back at Cup with him and don't lose faith," Kikau told

"Especially in defence, he helped me the whole of last year. It's not easy to be that middle person who is playing first grade one week and Cup the next and he understood how to manage that.

Panthers prepare for Brennan exploitation

"It's panning out now but there is still a lot of work to go in my game but Garth was really good for me in that stage of development."

Crichton's case was more about actions than words. Barely heard of 12 months ago, the St Mary's junior was down in the pecking order with a number of established outside backs ahead of him at Penrith.

"Garth was honest; if you make a mistake he'll tell you about it," Crichton said.

"He doesn't hide it. Last year I had some bad games and he dropped me.

Rookie Panthers winger Christian Crichton.
Rookie Panthers winger Christian Crichton. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"He pulled me aside and said 'it will make you a better player, trust me' and told me things I needed to work on.

"There were a lot of players in front of me last year but I just kept turning up, especially this pre-season. I just thought why not have a good crack at this."

Crichton is set to play his first game at Panthers Stadium with Anthony Griffin's men returning home after three weeks on the road.

He's set to line up opposite in-form Titans flyer Philip Sami, with the pair crossing paths throughout their lower-grade careers.

"It's good seeing boys you played against in 20s coming up in the top grade and he's got all the skills," Crichton said.

"You definitely feel more comfortable if you've played against that player before regardless of the level. You watch players on video or on television and think you might know their game but on the field it's a different game."


Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.