AAP Rugby

Cleary defends Tamou captaincy appointment

By AAP Newswire

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has defended the curious decision to appoint a club captain five weeks into the NRL season.

Tamou was appointed to the role on Tuesday after emerging from a six-man leadership group including James Maloney and Isaah Yeo.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Mansour and Nathan Cleary were also selected as co-captains in the summer, however Ivan said Tamou emerged from the pack.

"He's come through and grown in that group," Ivan said ahead of Thursday's round-six clash with Cronulla.

"He's effectively risen above and almost selected himself.

"He's well-respected, he's consistent, he's a family man with great values, he's playing well.

"He's respected by everyone and I think that role will actually help him personally as well. He's the man to do it."

Widely tipped to challenge for the premiership this season, Penrith have disappointed with just two unconvincing wins from five games.

They gave Gold Coast their maiden win of the year last week, however, Ivan denied their poor form prompted him into finding a solitary voice.

"That wasn't the plan. Effectively, it was a group of leaders and it was an evolution thing, really. It got to a point where James has come through that," he said.

"I think right now, it's good for the team and he's the man to now lead us with the support of that group.

"When you put these sorts of groups together, the ideal thing would be to have someone actually rise in that group and that's what happened."

The 30-year-old Tamou takes the reins in the third season of a four-year deal with the Panthers, after he joined them from North Queensland at the end of 2016.

He has represented NSW in State of Origin on 14 occasions and played in 12 Test matches for the Kangaroos.

"He was pretty humbled and that's the sort of guy he is. And the rest of the group were right behind him, which is even better," Cleary said.

Cleary has made a handful of changes edged by the Titans last week, including handing a season debut to returning Panthers prop Tim Grant.

Wayde Egan has also reclaimed a starting berth ahead of the benched Sione Katoa, with Hame Sele dropped.

The Sharks are sweating on a fitness test for Andrew Fifita (knee), while skipper Paul Gallen will need painkillers to manage a rib issue.

It is the first time the two clubs have met since Cronulla knocked Penrith out at least year's semi-final stage on a late Chad Townsend field goal.

"We played them three times last year and they all went down to the wire. I reminded the boys of that (Wednesday) morning," Sharks coach John Morris said.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Cronulla have won their past six and 11 of the past 13 against Penrith.

* The Sharks (69 per cent) and Panthers (67 per cent) have the worst completion rates in the NRL.

* Penrith are last in points, tries and run metres per game.