3 days ago
Dynamic Penrith five-eighth Preston Campbell has given the Panthers a boost as they prepare to depart for rugby league's World Club Challenge, declaring he's fully fit and ready to torment English champions the Bradford Bulls.
Campbell has been suffering a groin injury in the lead-up to the clash but trained this week, ending speculation whether he would take his place in John Lang's 18-man squad.
"I'm 100 per cent now," Campbell said today.
"I really just took it easy during the week. I had a couple of big hit-outs yesterday and today and I'm feeling alright.
"I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to it."
Only three Australian teams have won the WCC while only one - Brisbane in 1992 - has managed to complete the trifecta - the minor premiership, grand final and WCC.
The Panthers, full of confidence after their premiership win over the Roosters, find themselves in prime position to repeat that impressive feat.
Kangaroos quartet Craig Gower, Luke Lewis, Joel Clinton and Trent Waterhouse have returned from their Australian tour improved players while Bradford will be minus Great Britain half Paul Deacon (eye injury).
The Bulls may also be without New Zealand international Robbie Paul, who is having problems with the arm he broke late last season.
"We're just ready and raring to go for this year," Campbell said of the February 14 game at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium.
"The boys have put their premiership wins in the cupboard and they're pretty keen to take this game out.
"(Trent's) definitely a lot more confident and it's not just him.
"Joel and Luke have gone to another level at training."
The Panthers will be without injured centre Ryan Girdler (lung infection) although they have a more than adequate replacement in the promising Lewis.
Brett Howland, a late addition to the squad, seems the likely replacement on the wing.
"We were a bit worried about Preston but he's going to be right," Lang said.
"He's back in full training.
"I think they're (Bradford) going to be hard to beat. They're a power side. They have been the best side over there for the last three years."
Campbell is also cagey about the English threat, which has already proved Penrith's undoing in a WCC match - the Panthers were defeated by Wigan in 1991.
"I know it's getting stronger," Campbell said of the English competition.
"There's more Aussies and New Zealanders going over there. I wouldn't expect it would be much different from what we played.
"I know their forwards are rugged and hard over there."