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Kite tips Panthers to challenge NRL elite

Veteran recruit Brent Kite believes Penrith are primed to step up and stake a claim among the NRL premiership heavyweights this season.
Kite tips Panthers to challenge NRL elite
by AAP

By Steve Gee

SYDNEY, Feb 3 AAP - Veteran recruit Brent Kite believes Penrith are primed to step up and stake a claim among the NRL premiership heavyweights this season.

Kite, who signed with the Panthers after two premierships in nine years at Manly, sees similarities to the Sea Eagles when he joined them in 2005 but reckons the Panthers are significantly further advanced.

The former Test frontrower believes fellow new boys Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace are set to give the Panthers the direction they need from the halves to scale the ladder after their 10th place last season.

"Manly was a club possibly on the way up when I went there," Kite said.

"Dessie (Des Hasler) was recruiting well and the club was going forward and I think with Gus (football boss Phil Gould) and Ives (coach Ivan Cleary) at the helm, here, they're definitely heading in the right direction.

"There's some real good young talent. They've bought really well in the halves (with Soward and Wallace) so I think they are probably a couple of years ahead of where Manly was.

"We didn't really have an established half and then a couple of years later Matty Orford came along and we got all the pieces of the puzzle together.

"I think here at Penrith, without putting too much pressure on the guys, there's really no position we're lacking in and there seems to be plenty of depth so we want to get out of the box really well and give it a good shake."

Kite was squeezed out of Manly at the end of 2013 because of salary-cap pressures but the 2008 Clive Churchill medallist is excited about the move.

He said the new scrum-base partnership of former NSW Origin players Soward and Wallace was already gelling seamlessly at training.

"I've been very impressed with Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace," he said. "They've got kicking games that other clubs would be envious of.

"Jamie has a bit of flair and there's the steadying role from Pete, so I think they're a good mix."

The 32-year-old is relishing playing a mentoring role and has a huge opinion of fellow frontrowers Tim Grant and Sam McKendry, as well as youngsters such as rising fullback Tim Moylan and former Manly teammate Dean Whare.

Kite said he felt reinvigorated by the move west.

"That old saying `a change is as good as a holiday' is certainly true.

"You come to a new club and you want to impress and you can see the potential in the team," he said.

"It's pretty exciting to be part of all that where a team goes from outside the top eight to possibly well inside the top eight and continues to improve."

Kite is also full or praise for Cleary.

"Ives is great. He's certainly got a cool head on his shoulders and I'm really impressed with the way he sticks by his team win, lose or draw.

"I've had an eye on him at press conferences and he never really bags the players. He seems like a very loyal sort of coach and everyone that plays under him seems to like him.

"I like his approach to the game. He's not rigid, I suppose. He's open to guys... he encourages guys to think and learn."


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