DRAG(O)N A COWBOY | The St George-Illawarra Dragons have claimed a narrow win over the reigning prem...
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He watched a video of the Warriors' loss to St George, noting Latu was very sharp out of hooker, and he has played against Ropati in the pre-season trial the Panthers won at North Harbour Stadium back in February.
"He's a strong player. He had two half-chances and he took them.
"I don't think there are any weak spots in the Warriors ? they're a good side."
Penrith have won the past five encounters between the two teams, including the big one ? last year's preliminary final where they eliminated the Warriors from the playoffs.
But they did not feel they had the acid on them, Gower said. They didn't focus on the opposition and hadn't made a big deal about being premiers and needing to defend the title, or how other sides might approach them because they were the champions. "We're just out to play our game."
Penrith, at times sparkled, as in the latter stages at Canberra, but consistency was still missing. "We can't keep doing that or someone will burn us."
The combinations between himself, Preston Campbell and Rhys Wesser has attracted much attention because it produces sparkling tries, but Gower laid thanks at the feet of the forwards.
"They're two good players but you can't go past that go- forward. The pack has improved so much."
Most of them ? Ben Ross, Joel Clinton, Luke Swain, Kiwis Joe Galuvao and Tony Puletua, Shane Rodney and Trent Waterhouse ? are in the 22-25 age bracket, so that player roll is expected to continue for some time.
Gower has been at the club through junior grades, rating discipline as one of the big changes enforced by the new management under John Lang and Shane Richardson when they came in ahead of the 2002 season.
"They brought a new lease of life. John's pretty dry but he gets the best out of the players. He encourages you to play your game." He felt his running game had improved because he had more confidence, and more confidence in his back-up.
After a representative career that began when he was 20 ? halted spectacularly when he was dropped for ill- discipline, then resurrected last season ? Gower is hoping to be back in the test frame for the Kiwis-Kangaroos contest next month.
"I'm concentrating on the club football but yeah, the test is in the back of the mind".
The record thus far:
2004 Pre-season Penrith 32-12 2003 Preliminary final Penrith 28-20 2003 Round 12 Penrith 34-12 2003 Round 7 Penrith 28-14 2003 Pre-season Penrith 28-26 2002 Round 21 Warriors 38-24 2001 Round 22 Warriors 48-32 2001 Round 9 Warriors 52-8