Penrith winger Josh Mansour admits his Panthers teammates go to another level when coming up against the Canberra Raiders after recent years of bitter rivalry.
In what will shape as one of the clashes of the upcoming round, the Panthers can all but cement their spot in the NRL Telstra Premiership top eight and end the slim finals hopes of Ricky Stuart’s side.
The Green Machine however were the giant killers in Penrith’s final campaign last season and after coming off a shock last minute loss back in Round 14 at Bathurst, will be out for revenge.
“There is definitely a bit of rivalry there,” Mansour told NRL.com.
“I can’t say that I hate them but they are my rivals and it’s a game I always look forward to.”
Mansour will line up opposite Kiwi international Jordan Rapana and after suffering an ACL injury during the Four Nations campaign, missed out on coming up against the Test winger.
“I look at Jordan Rapana as the form winger in the competition,” he said.
“He’s excelled as the year has gone on and his combination with Joey Leilua in attack has got better, but we will look to exploit them in defence as well.
“Last time we played them I thought we handled them really well. They’re a handful every game but I’ve got complete confidence in our left edge alongside Peachey.”
The battle between the two wingers could be an early showdown if Mansour is picked for the Australian Kangaroos side for the World Cup in October.
With Australian coach Mal Meninga known for loyalty, a strong finish to the season by the former Kangaroo is all it could take to earn a recall.
“For myself I’ve got unfinished business there,” Mansour said.
“I was disappointed with how my tour ended early and put a goal to getting that jersey back.
“But if it doesn’t happen I won’t be bitter about it and could get an opportunity with Lebanon which I will be equally grateful for.”
Panthers teammate Trent Merrin started the year off in sluggish fashion yet Meninga stuck to the same side that won the Four Nations tournament last November.
When asked if Meninga had been in contact this season about the possibility of a return to the green and gold based on loyalty, Mansour wasn’t as confident.
“Nothing really, to be honest,” he said.
“But in saying that it gives you more motivation and every week is an opportunity to prove it to selectors.
“I just want to keep playing good footy here and not get ahead of myself. Hopefully it will fall into place at the end of the year.”
It was a return to the try-scoring list for Mansour against the Cowboys with the 27-year-old getting over the line in the first half for the first time this season at Pepper Stadium.
The Panthers’ centre pairing are the least used in the Telstra Premiership but have found more ball in recent weeks that has given the team’s attack the ability to side-to-side.
“Losing Moyza (Matt Moylan) we lost that confidence giving Peachey early ball out wide but Tyrone May has been outstanding and has his own style too so it’s something we work on,” Mansour said.
“We wanted more ball on the left edge and haven’t really in the last five games. I thought we really chanced our arm on the edges [against the Cowboys] and it paid off dividends.
“We keep growing every week and there is no greater challenge then taking on Canberra in their backyard.”
This article first appeared on NRL.com.
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