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Panthers flyer will be targeted: Cleary

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has warned winger James Roberts to expect a target on his head now that he's flaunted his wares in the NRL.
Panthers flyer will be targeted: Cleary
by AAP

By Roje Adaimy

SYDNEY, July 12 AAP - Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has warned winger James Roberts to expect a target on his head now that he's flaunted his wares in the NRL.

The 20-year-old bagged a hat-trick in the Panthers' big win over Gold Coast last Saturday, a breakthrough performance in a year marred by off-field incidents and injuries.

"What we saw last week was just scratching the surface," Cleary told AAP on Friday.

"James definitely provides a bit of X-factor. I guess he's now on everybody's radar, so he's going to have to understand that is the case.

"He'll get a bit more special treatment from the opposition in many ways."

And that attention will come thick and fast on Saturday when the seventh-placed Panthers face cellar-dwellers Parramatta at Parramatta Stadium.

"He's fully aware of all that but I haven't seen any signs of him slacking off or getting comfortable this week," Cleary said of Roberts, who was dropped by South Sydney last year after a series of indiscretions.

"He understands how hard he's had to work to get to this position. He's just got to keep that going."

Despite the Panthers' last-start win catapulting them into the NRL top eight for the first time this season, Cleary is adamant making the finals is not front-of-mind - rather, a distant goal.

"We're just keen on developing some consistency, which we've definitely gotten better at the last couple of months," he said.

"But there's a fair way to go yet so we're just looking no further than tomorrow night's game down at Parramatta."

The Panthers have won four of their past five matches at Parramatta Stadium, versus the Eels' five from seven.

But Cleary said he expected a fired-up Eels for the local derby, spurred on by Monday's 50-10 thumping by Manly - their sixth successive loss and second time this season they've dropped a half-century of points.

"They had a big loss earlier in the year and they won the next game at home. Ricky's also made a few changes, so that often has an immediate impact in terms of motivation levels.

"It's a tough game anyway you look it."

The Eels will be without Jarryd Hayne (hamstring) through injury and Mitchell Allgood, who was suspended for two games for punching Sea Eagles' Steve Matai in Monday's loss.

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