PENRITH veteran Clint Newton assured fans that the 2013 season would be much more settled, both on and off the field, as the Panthers continue to evolve under coach Ivan Cleary.
Last season Cleary made his presence felt with a number of brave decisions including dropping Michael Jennings back to NSW Cup and stripping Luke Lewis of the captaincy.
Newton said supporters should look forward to a less chaotic season.
“We’re seen as the sleeping giant in the league and we want to repay our fans with a more settled season this year,” Newton said.
“The club went through a transitional phase last season, but I don’t like to hear those words because it can come across as a bit negative. We’ve got the right people in the key positions with Warren Wilson, Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary and the main message to the fans is to have faith in the people running the club.
“They’re doing the right things and the trying times of last year will be a thing of the past.”
Penrith takes on Canberra this Sunday at home, and with three of their first four games at home, a good start is important.
But Newton, who has played in the English Super League, took the pressure off his team saying home wins weren’t as crucial in the NRL as some may think.
“The home ground advantage isn’t such a big advantage in Australia compared with England. Over there the home fans are singing and are really loud, which gives you an advantage,” Newton said.
“In Australia, if you turn up in the right frame of mind you can win anywhere and the away trips help galvanise the side and help with bonding. Sometimes it’s as good for the team as playing at home.
“But our performance at home is still very important to us and we want to play well in front of our supporters.”
The back-rower said the team was “travelling along well” after a couple of solid trial wins and said he was in a much better position than this time last year, both on and off the field.
“This year has been a fair bit different on a personal and professional level,” Newton said.
“I didn’t have a house for the first four months I was at Penrith and I was living in a one-room flat while my girlfriend was up in Newcastle, so from a personal point of view it was a bit of a hassle.
“I’ve got a whole pre-season under my belt this time too. Last season I was recovering from a shoulder injury and I didn’t start running January and I was chasing my tail which meant I didn’t catch up to everyone until about halfway through the year.”
Newton said James Segeyaro had been one of the stand-outs at per-season training as the Panthers come to terms with losing Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon.
“It was disappointing to see those guys leave and now we’re probably, understandably, underrated by everyone because we have no real superstars in our squad,” Newton said. “I’m glad I’ve got my experience and I’m always there to talk to the younger guys about footy.”
Penrith was one of the clubs involved in drugs and match fixing allegations that have plagued Australian sport in recent months.
Despite being told by investigators that their involvement was minimal, Newton said the drama has not disrupted the team in any way.
“I don’t think it’s affected us at all,” Newton said.
“It was disappointing, not just for us, but for the game with the way it was played out in the media. I haven’t seen any affect from it in our team.”
Penrith plays Canberra this Sunday at Centrebet Stadium at 2pm.