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Axed Panthers face anxious NRL wait

NZN 6/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Penrith's axed trio of skipper Matt Moylan, Peta Hiku and Waqa Blake could be in the doghouse for more than one game after coach Anthony Griffin declined to guarantee a recall next week.

Griffin sensationally dropped his three frontliners to NSW Cup on Tuesday after breaking the team's curfew following last week's NRL loss to Melbourne.

While it's unlikely Penrith will risk another week without their best line-up, Griffin on Thursday refused to confirm the length of the punishment.

"I can't tell you that. Only the players can tell you that, the ones that play Friday night and the three guys that have gone back to NSW Cup," Griffin said after the captain's run.

The second-year Panthers coach stood by his decision to send a message to his playing group ahead of Friday's crucial round-six NRL clash with South Sydney.

Installed as premiership favourites alongside Melbourne at the start of the year, Penrith will drop out of the top eight if they lose the match at Pepper Stadium.

But Griffin insisted it was in the best interests of the club.

"It's not a major issue as far as breaking laws or anything. But it's something that we take seriously within our own club. The boys have reacted very well," he said.

The trio will take on Newcastle in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW at St Marys on Saturday.

"They understood the reasons and to their credit they didn't play the victim. They understood the decision they made wasn't the right thing by the team. That's the main thing," said Griffin.

"They trained very well with NSW Cup - I went to training last night - that's what they need to do."

The former Brisbane mentor said he didn't consider stripping the captaincy from Moylan, who will be replaced by youngster Dylan Edwards with veteran Peter Wallace to fill in as skipper.

"If Matt wants to be captain of this club, I'm not going to stop him doing that. Maybe one day we'll look back and see this as a point that it helped him assume that authority," he said.

Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, older brother of Panthers flyer Dallin, will make his NRL debut on the wing, while Michael Oldfield will also make his first appearance for the club.

In some good news for the Panthers, Tyrone Peachey could be back next week after initial reports suggested he could be out for up to six weeks with broken ribs.

Bryce Cartwright (ankle) and James Fisher-Harris (eye socket) are also expected to return.

South Sydney hooker Robbie Farah enters Saturday's match under a fitness cloud after picking up a back spasm that limited his training this week.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Penrith have won the past two, and 10 of 13 matches against South Sydney at home, where they have also averaged 31 points in their past seven matches.

* Penrith concede the most offloads (11.6 per game), miss the second most tackles (32.2 per game) and make the equal second most errors (12.2 per game).

* The Rabbitohs are forcing 2.2 dropouts per game, equal with Brisbane.

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