Jersey boys: Storm wear Panthers colours in ‘weird’ training ploy

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Rivals are going to extreme lengths to emulate the Panthers.

As intrigue surrounds whether Jarome Luai is fit enough to pull on the Penrith jersey for Friday’s preliminary final, opponents Melbourne have done just that. Images have emerged on social media of Storm players wearing Panthers colours during opposed sessions.

It is customary for players outside the top 17 to mimic the movements of the opposition during training drills. However, this could mark the first time enemy colours have been donned in a session during preparations for a finals fixture. Tepai Moeroa and George Jennings are among the Storm players pictured in opposition kit.

The tactic lends further credence to the belief that Craig Bellamy’s side is the most meticulously prepared in the competition.

The jersey ploy was a talking point at the foot of the mountains on Wednesday.

“No, that was weird,” Penrith prop Moses Leota said when asked if he had ever worn another team’s jersey at training.

“That was the first time I’ve seen that. That’s probably just how they were preparing, that’s it. It is funny to see how other teams prepare differently to how we prepare.”

Fellow Penrith front-rower James Fisher-Harris felt the idea may have merit.

“I heard about it,” he said. “I’d do that, it’s pretty smart. Maybe it’s just [about] the awareness. Whatever helps the team. That’s why they are doing it.”

Lindsay Smith, who has just recommitted to the club, added: “We’ve never had to train in different jerseys.

“I’ve seen that today and had a little bit of a giggle, I’m not going to lie. But at the same time, especially for the boys who aren’t playing each week, they do their best to try and emulate the other team.

Some Storm players wore Panthers shirts during an opposed session.

“Every team does that and the Storm have found a different way to do that this week.”

Asked which opposition player he felt would do the best impression of his style of play, Smith joked: “Someone who is slow, that’s for sure.”

Storm skipper Christian Welch said his team studied the Panthers more than any other opponent.

“They’re probably the most watched team,” he said. “They’re so impressive and so well coached. That’s the modern-day NRL, setting up for a big structured play is good.

Some Storm players wore Panthers shirts during an opposed session.

“But tries come off quick play-the-balls. Penrith know that.

“When they’re attacking, they try to find a quick play-the-ball, drop-offs, their back-rowers are running at three-ins and four-ins, and then they go. You can tell there’s a massive focus when they’re defending not to let a quick play-the-ball. They’re really smart defensively. That’s the trouble trying to score quick points against Penrith when they’re so effective in contact.”

Penrith and Melbourne officials were contacted for comment on the jersey ploy. The Storm said they had used the approach before.

Of more concern for the premiers is the fitness of Luai. The NSW and Samoan playmaker is scheduled to have his first major hit-out on Wednesday night since dislocating his left shoulder against the Eels less than a month ago.

“He would be a massive lift [if declared fit]; he’s one of the best players in the game,” Smith said of Luai.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but hopefully he’s ready to go. If he is, I know he will be there 100 per cent.

“I’d love nothing more than to play alongside him.”

Fisher-Harris added: “When he’s on the field, that’s our No.1 team.

“He has shown [that] on the biggest stages. Hopefully, he does play, but we’ll see how we go. I can’t remember when we had a full-strength team [available for selection]. It’s just become normal for us, a next-man-up sort of thing.

“[It’s about] resilience; it doesn’t matter who you are, you put the jersey on and you’ve got a job to do.”

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