Penrith coach Anthony Griffin insists his players won’t be distracted by their State of Origin chances in Saturday’s top-of-the-table NRL clash against St George Illawarra.
Only 1200 tickets are left for a blockbuster contest at Panthers Stadium where not only top spot is on the line, but a host of Origin jumpers for the series opener on June 6.
At least 12 players from both teams are considered in contention to be picked for either NSW or Queensland, with Blues coach Brad Fittler openly declaring the match-up as an Origin audition.
However Griffin trusts his team to be focused on the job of taking down the league’s benchmark.
“It’s hard for them, but I think we’ve had a pretty good week at training. I know all our guys are focused, as theirs will be,” Griffin said on Friday.
“It’s what they do out there on Saturday night that’ll determine some of their Origin chances. I think the game will always come first in their mind and we’ll find out what happens after that.”
NSW incumbent James Maloney and halfback Nathan Cleary, as well as Reagan Campbell-Gillard, and the versatile Tyrone Peachey will enter the Dragons’ match with hopes of being named on Monday.
However Griffin believes there is no need to address any of them before kickoff.
“They’re all good, level-headed guys. The reason they’re in contention is the job they’ve been doing. They’ve been playing very well and I haven’t seen any reason why that’d change this Saturday,” he said.
He also laid down the challenge for the likes of Campbell-Gillard, who is certain to play after getting his wisdom teeth pulled out last week.
Griffin said his star front-rower had been fighting through pain for the past five weeks.
“Our forwards have done a great job and this will be their biggest test, I’d imagine. The St George pack, they’re a very big, mobile pack and they’ve done a great job,” he said.
“That’s why they’re leading the competition. They’ve given their halves a real platform to play off. Our guys are going along really well and they’ll get their chance to have a real forward battle there.”