Penrith playmaker Jamie Soward says he will take on more responsibility but won’t change his style in the absence of halves partner Peter Wallace.
The first-placed Panthers have suffered a rare speed bump in their golden NRL season so far, with confirmation they’ll be missing their captain and halfback for between four to six weeks due to an ankle and knee problem.
Exciting young back rower Tyrone Peachey has been given the nod to shift to five-eighth in Wallace’s place, meaning Soward will wear the No.7 jersey against Brisbane on Monday night.
The Panthers are determined to ensure Wallace’s injury doesn’t trigger a slide in form and Soward is adamant the best way to maintain consistency is for him to avoid overplaying the situation.
“He’s obviously a massive loss for us but in saying that the systems we’ve had in place have been in place for a long while now,” Soward said.
“It’s not going to change the way I play and I think it would be pretty disappointing for Ivan (coach Ivan Cleary) if I had to change my game to try and do everything.
“It will just come down to me calling a few more sets and organising a bit more.”
Coach Cleary has avoided the temptation to search for a like-for-like replacement for Wallace and pluck a more natural playmaker like Luke Capewell or Tom Humble from Penrith’s ladder-leading NSW Cup team.
But Soward said he has every faith in classy back rower Peachey, who filled the void in Sunday’s win over Wests Tigers when Wallace left the field.
“Tyrone is very talented and has a lot of skills,” he said.
“He has a skill set a lot of back rowers don’t have.”
Wallace still requires further scans, but testing has ruled out the possibility he has a season-ending syndesmosis ankle injury or that he requires surgery.
It seems the bigger problem might be a medial ligament injury in his knee.
Either way he’ll be in a restrictive boot for the next couple of weeks to fast-track his healing process.
The Panthers’ fairy-tale climb to the top of the table has been questioned in some quarters of the game, with critics claiming Penrith have received an arm-chair ride with a favourable draw.
But Soward said such talk was nonsensical and disrespectful to the teams they’ve played.
“In the NRL we don’t pick who we play. We’re playing who the draw says we play. Every other year for the last 100 years you play who the draw says you play. You don’t pick and choose,” he said.