Following their shock qualifying final loss to the 'Latrell-less' Rabbitohs on Saturday night, Fox League and Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Kent has stated that Penrith's premiership hopes are over.
In a Saturday afternoon radio discussion with former Bronco, Gordon Tallis and fellow scribe, James Hooper, the perennially blunt pundit claimed he was prepared to put a line through the Mountain Men's chances in 2021.
“They are done Penrith,” Kent said on Triple M.
“Look they played tired last night, Gordon [Tallis].
“You go through the weekend. Melbourne put an absolute score on Manly. Melbourne rested a lot of players in the lead-up and Manly didn’t. And Melbourne played fresh.
“Then you’ve got last night and Gold Coast had a crack and they had a few players rested as well. They nearly pulled it off.
“Then you’ve got last night’s game and Penrith have had the best attack all season. Well Melbourne have had the best attack, but Penrith have been the most entertaining and had the most flamboyant attack all season.
“They have a lot of men in motion. They have a lot of energy around their attack and they defend well.
“Last night they defended well but there was just no energy in their attack. They didn’t have a lot of bodies in motion like they usually do.
“They are normally a side a bit like an under-6s soccer team where everyone just follows the ball. But what they do around that ball is they have so many options. But last night it wasn’t there."
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Although many believed that the simultaneous returns of multiple key players would see the Panthers surge through September, Kent felt that opposition sides who had rested players in the final week of the regular season were far better placed than Ivan Cleary's cubs.
“If you look back Wayne [Bennett] rested 10 players who played last night in the last round of the competition. Ivan [Cleary] didn’t," he continued.
Kent also suggested that Manly's Friday night defeat at the hands of Melbourne had come about due to the same methodology.
“So they [Penrith] were fatigued. Des on Friday night I think he actually gambled on trying to beat Melbourne so they could win the game and get the week off and make the preliminary final," he said.
“He wanted to maintain his momentum. Bellamy went the other way and rested his players and they came out fresh and it benefited them.”
With the loss now forcing the Panthers onto the Storms' side of the draw, Kent was of the belief that an extra week of action ahead of a potential date with the Victorian powerhouse would likely wear Penrith thin.
“I think last night with Penrith there was a bit of evidence that there was a bit of fatigue in their attack,” Kent explained.
“And now they have to play again next week the winner of Eels vs Knights. But they’ve got to get through that.
“If it is Parramatta it is going to be a bash up in the forwards next week. And then they have got to come out again and play a fresh Melbourne and try and get through.
“I just think it is going to be too much for them now.”
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Despite agreeing with much of Kent's contention, Hooper stopped short of declaring the season over for a side who have finished victorious in 41 of their past 48 outings.
“Well they have got to beat Melbourne now to make the grand final which is going to be bloody hard,” Hooper said.
“So they have ended up on the really difficult side of the draw.
“But no I am not putting the pen through them entirely because we have seen over the course of the last two seasons they are a champion side.
“Yes it is going to be a hell of a lot more difficult and beating the Storm in a preliminary final is as hard as it can get, but I’m not prepared to completely write them off just yet.”
As mentioned by Kent, Cleary and his charges will be keeping a keen eye on Sunday afternoon's elimination final proceedings to see whether they will face the Eels or Knights next Saturday night.