Civoniceva is tough, says Pritchard

Penrith and New Zealand hard man Frank Pritchard says his new club captain Petero Civoniceva is among the toughest men he has met.

Civoniceva, who'll play his first game against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, has made a massive impression on Pritchard and the Panthers since joining the club late last year.

Pritchard said Civoniceva would have plenty of back-up if Brisbane tried to unsettle or even target him on his "homecoming".

"It'll be a tough day for him, but we've got his back," warned the Kiwi hit-man who put Karmichael Hunt into Disneyland with a high shot in the Brisbane's fullback's Test debut in 2006.

"I don't think there'll be any bad rivalry against him and all the fans love him whether he's at the Broncos or not.

"He's a man of great calibre.

"His name and what he's done on the field speaks for himself.

"He's one tough nut.

"I though Gowie (Craig Gower) was tough, but Petero's tougher."

Pritchard said Civoniceva was a "humble bloke" who'd been happy to stand in front of the club's under-20 side and help kids who hadn't played any grade football.

"It's a big thing for the young kids at Penrith who look up to him," Pritchard said.

"He's a wonderful bloke, he's a champion."

Pritchard said it was up to the Panthers forwards to lay a platform for their inexperienced backs which include new halves Joe Williams (15 games) and Jarrod Sammut (five games).

"They haven't played together but they're both very talented," he said.

"They could be a dynamic duo but they could also be heavily targeted.

"We've got to look after them in defence because they're pretty small little creatures."

The pressure will also be on Brisbane's halves with former Penrith utility Peter Wallace in the No.7 and champion five-eighth Darren Lockyer embarking on his comeback from knee surgery without having played one minute of trial football.

Pritchard said Penrith would have to be aware of Lockyer, Hunt and Justin Hodges in attack at all times.

He dismissed talk that being forced to play in their dark jumpers could be a factor.

"Playing in the heat will be tough but we've all got to deal with it," he said.

"We're the ones wearing the black jersey so we know it's going to be hot, we just have to prepare ourselves properly and be mentally ready for it."

Brisbane will field five new faces on Sunday, including Wallace and prop Joel Clinton who will go up against their old club.

Rookie winger Reece Robinson, a cousin of Anthony Mundine, will make his debut and the world boxing champion will be in the crowd cheering him on after convincing coach Wayne Bennett to give him a chance.

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