Rampaging Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco looms as the likely bogeyman at the end of Bryce Cartwright’s nightmare week.
Cartwright was one of Penrith’s weakest defenders in the opening round, as he and right-edge partner Te Maire Martin were targeted regularly in their shock 42-10 loss to St George Illawarra on Saturday.
The pair accounted for a quarter of the Panthers’ missed tackles, as Dragons hat-trick hero Joel Thompson picked them out, just hours before Cartwright’s personal life was splashed through Sunday’s papers.
Conversely, Tedesco wreaked havoc for the Tigers in their 34-18 win over South Sydney on Friday night.
He busted through 11 would-be tacklers, largely in that same attacking channel, scoring one try.
And Penrith coach Anthony Griffin expects Tedesco will be running similar lines come Sunday afternoon at Campbelltown.
“He comes around the back on the tramlines there on either side of the field,” Griffin said of Tedesco.
“He’s a real elite talent. He’s got blinding speed, so if you’re a little bit disorganised defensively he’s going to get you.”
Tedesco’s side-stepping try against South Sydney on Friday night was one of the highlights of the weekend.
He beat three defenders to reach out and score, and totalled 174 metres with ball in hand throughout the game and set up another three line breaks.
The Panthers have been burnt by Tedesco before and know how dangerous he can be against the run of play.
He had two linebreaks in the Tigers’ 34-26 round-17 win over them last year, setting up two tries and breaking through seven tackles.
“He’ll get you on the front line too,” Griffin said.
“It’s not about coming off the back of their structure, if he’s got the ball and you’re a little bit disorganised then he is going to get you.”
Penrith’s defensive effort against the Dragons was their worst since Griffin’s arrival at the club last year – marking the first time they had conceded more than 40 points in the last 20 months.
But despite their defensive failings, Griffin refused to single out Cartwright and Martin as the two with the most responsibility to share for the side’s woes.
“They were getting over the advantage line and dominating us up the middle there,” Griffin said.
“It’s hard for your edge people to defend if you’re not competing as well as you can in the middle.”