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Panthers centre Stephen Crichton said he must improve his defensive game before considering State of Origin selection after missed tackles overshadowed his hat-trick heroics in Thursday’s defeat to South Sydney.

Up until the final 10 minutes, it was all Crichton for Penrith with the Samoan star producing a three-try, three-goal haul to put his side on the verge of victory before a late Rabbitohs resurgence exposed the Panthers' right edge defence.

With two of the Rabbitohs' last three tries leaving Blues stars Brian To’o and Crichton in their wake, the 22-year-old centre said improving his defensive game will be a priority before the NSW Origin squad is selected on May 21.

Crichton keeps the scoreboard ticking

“If that opportunity comes around again, of course I want to pick it up and take it with two hands but I’ve got a lot to work on now at Penrith in terms of both sides of the ball,” Crichton said.

“I really want to knuckle down and nail that for our team before thinking too far ahead. I was good in attack but I’ve still got a lot to work to do on my defence.

“I’ll look at that over the weekend and work on that so I can be a bit clearer in defence as well. My attack is there but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

Rabbitohs v Panthers - Round 8, 2023

Recording six missed tackles and three ineffective attempts, Crichton emphasised he had a long way to go to improve on his 59 percent tackle efficiency, and needs to look no further than co-captain Nathan Cleary for inspiration.

Despite carrying a reported groin niggle that kept him away from goal-kicking duties, the Kangaroos halfback made 24 tackles, including a couple of try-savers, to keep his side in the fight until the dying stages of the ANZAC Round match.

Cleary leaving nothing in the tank

“Clez (Cleary) is one of those players, he’s always up for the game and he leaves nothing to chance,” Crichton said.

"I love defending next to him as well, he cleans up a lot of my mess as well.

“That’s what I’ve been saying. I've still got to work that combination between me and him, and Bizza [To'o] as well, and we’ll work on that for the better.”

No teams have faced each other more since 2020 than South Sydney and Penrith, meeting on 11 occasions including four finals matches.

With a knack for big-match heroics, the Samoan World Cup star said despite the disappointing Round 8 result, he relished the challenge that comes with facing Souths and their host of representative stars.

“We’ve versed Souths so many times in the past two years,” he said. “It’s always a big game up against them and a massive build-up to it as well.”

“We both know each other’s game really well and it’s about getting my prep right and being in the right position at the right time to give myself the chance to play well.

“Those are the type of games you want to play in…two heavyweights going at it and always comes down to the 80th minute for whoever wants to take it.

“They had the opportunity there and they definitely took it with two hands.

'I know we’ll look over it, we’ll review it, see where we can get better and be better off for it later throughout the year.”

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.