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Wet and wild: GF forecast prompts training, bench shake-ups as Naden starts

Brent Naden spent all 80 minutes of last week's win over Souths on the ANZ Stadium sidelines but will return to Penrith's right edge as Melbourne also consider a bench shake-up to counter predicted wet weather on grand final day.

The Panthers' open training session on Tuesday featured the age-old tactic of soaped-up Steedens after greasy conditions in last Saturday's preliminary final saw them make 13 errors against the Rabbitohs.

With rain predicted all weekend in Sydney and ANZ a particularly tough track in the wet, understands the Storm are also considering playing four forwards off the bench.

Nicho Hynes has been named on their interchange but big men Tom Eisenhuth and Tui Kamikamica, pending fitness, are both under consideration for a call-up into the 17 with a call to be made closer to game day.

Ivan Cleary meanwhile has restored Naden to right centre after springing a selection surprise with Tyrone May taking his spot against the Rabbitohs in just his sixth NRL game out wide.

Panthers centre Brent Naden.
Panthers centre Brent Naden. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

May has reverted to his utility role again on the bench with Kurt Capewell joining him on the pine after the return of Viliame Kikau from suspension.

Back-up rake Mitch Kenny drops out of the 17 alongside Spencer Leniu, with both youngsters pushed to the extended reserves after the latter's COVID test last week cost him a preliminary final spot

Defensive lapses against the Roosters three weeks ago saw May preferred over Naden for the preliminary final despite the 24-year-old playing 17 games in a breakout 2020 campaign.

Naden told earlier this week he had no qualms with watching from the sidelines again if it delivers a title.

"I've been working really, really hard at [defence] the last two weeks," Naden said on Sunday, unsure at that point where he would land in Penrith's grand final 17.

"[Development back-rower] J'maine Hopgood sat up in front of the boys on [Sunday] morning and said a lot of good players, great players, have their whole NRL career not playing in a grand final.

"Here we are 80 minutes away maybe from a premiership."

Cleary may well be keeping his powder dry with a late shake-up once more out wide, with no opposed training taking place in front of 1500 fans at Panthers Stadium.

The footballs were a different story after handling errors almost brought Penrith's young stars undone last week, with an esky of soapy water put to good use through Tuesday's field session.

Five-eighth Jarome Luai left the ground in only shorts and socks after gifting everything else he was wearing to young fans.

Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai.
Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

With the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting up to 15mm of rain and 35 km/hr winds for Sunday's grand final, Luai backed Penrith's soaped up preparation to hold them in good stead.

"There were a couple of errors there last game, we're trying to get on top of that and we found out how slippery it was over at ANZ. A bit of practice won't hurt," Luai said.

"It was dewy as. It had rained a bit. The grass was good, we just need to hold the ball. That's what we're trying to tick off."

Then there were two

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.