Welcome to the top, Cameron Ciraldo.
The unceremonious dismissal of Anthony Griffin, Ciraldo was tasked with steering the Panthers through finals. During his first game as the interim coach, five-eighth James Maloney went down with a knee injury.
The best-case scenario is that Maloney will miss the Panthers’ final three games, but may be available by the time the finals begin.
The club informed that Maloney had suffered a grade two medial ligament tear in a mainly meaningless game with the Gold Coast Titans.
Meaningless for the Panthers, that is. Gold Coast is playing for job security and the possible idea of derailing one or more finals-bound club. Penrith had to come from behind for a 17 – 16 win.
For our readers who are not versed in medical terminology, a grade two medial ligament tear is the sort of injury that makes you say “ouch,” but not in those exact words.
During the lead-up to the game, everyone was suggesting that Maloney should be spelled, as he has a broken thumb and other medical issues since helping the NSW Blues win State of Origin, but now, Ciraldo has had the decision taken off his plate.
The injury to Maloney could potentially give him the rest he needs, but if he cannot be used in finals, it would seem that any possibility of Ciraldo staying on has evaporated into atmosphere of limited density.
Nathan Cleary will have to assume a leadership role, even though he is just 20 years of age, but the upcoming game with Newcastle will be his first without Maloney alongside in the halves.
It would seem that Griffin being sent packing was mildly helpful to the Panthers’ cause, as they were able to move from fifth to fourth with the win over Gold Coast.
For the record, we called for Maloney to be spelled, given the weakness of the opponent, but we were clearly wrong in that Gold Coast gave Penrith everything they had.