Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary is eyeing a more direct combination with fellow playmaker Te Maire Martin ahead of Friday night’s home clash with South Sydney.
The pair have now played five NRL matches together, enduring a start to the season that has yielded two wins and three losses to leave the Panthers in eighth spot on the ladder.
They linked directly for the Panthers’ only try in the 28-6 loss to Melbourne on Saturday, marking just the second time this season the two youngsters had passed to each other in the lead-up to a try.
Cleary wants it and Penrith need it to be more than just a one-off combination.
“We’ve been working on that a fair bit at training in the past few weeks and I think it’s something that’s slowly developing,” Cleary said.
“As the season goes on hopefully it develops more.”
Despite entering the season with 19 and 21-year-old halves in Cleary and Martin respectively, the Panthers entered the 2017 season as equal favourites to take out the premiership, along with the Storm.
And in terms of possession (57 per cent) and field position – they were tackled 62 times in the opposition’s 20, the most of any team in any game this year – they dominated the Storm
Yet for all that, the Panthers scored just one try.
“It’s just about the opportunities,” Cleary said.
“When Melbourne give you those opportunities you need to take them.
“We need to learn off them in some aspects – they’re a great benchmark.”
Cleary said he shouldered the responsibility for the Panthers inability to cross the stripe, given his role as lead playmaker.
“It was a big learning curve for me,” he said.
“I took a lot out of that game. Definitely some people to look up to.
“They’ve been doing it for ages now and they’re obviously so clinical in what they do. They’re just freaks.”