Brown to face old team-mates in Panthers debut

HOME COMING: Former Warriors second-rower Lewis Brown will face his old club in his debut for the Penrith Panthers.
HOME COMING: Former Warriors second-rower Lewis Brown will face his old club in his debut for the Penrith Panthers.

The broad shoulders of Warriors heavy hitter Ben Matulino are looming as the most obvious place for former team-mate Lewis Brown to steer clear of today.

Brown makes his first outing for the Penrith Panthers this afternoon, and ironically his first match for his new club is against his old one.

After four seasons with the Warriors, 26-year-old Brown will line up in the trial match against the Warriors at Waikato Stadium with a clear idea of what to expect coming his way.

"It will be a bit weird playing against my old team-mates but that's the business that we're in and I'm looking forward to taking the field in Hamilton," he said.

"I've got a lot of mates in the Warriors. But come Saturday it's business time, and I just want to earn the respect of my team-mates, be one of those players that they want to play around, and hopefully take small steps in what is a big journey for us in 2013."

The second rower was one of several Panthers who didn't play in the narrow win over the Wests Tigers in last weekend's first trial.

"There's about 15 of us that didn't play last week, so everyone's licking their lips and rubbing their hands together ready to take the field," Brown said. "It's been a tough off-season and it's always a pleasure to get the off-season out of the way and let the fun begin."

Today will be more enjoyable for Brown, though, if he doesn't cop a battering from former comrades.

"There's probably a few guys that you wouldn't want to run into, one of them being big Benny Matulino," he said.

"I don't think too many players in the NRL want to run at him. The whole team, they're all very talented players at the Warriors. I still keep a close eye on them, I hold them still, very close to my heart, and I wish them the best of luck in 2013, and I'm pretty sure they'll go very well this year."

But will Brown get in the ear and sledge a few of the Warriors' boys this afternoon?

"Na, na, they might sledge me, but I'm a nice kind of guy so I'll just put that in the back pocket for off the field."

Brown's move to the Panthers came about because he felt a fresh start was needed in his career.

He said the two clubs were quite similar and the move had been very smooth, with the Panthers helping out a lot in his relocation.

A key factor for him also, was having his former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at the helm there, who he said is a more relaxed coach now.

"He's a pretty quiet kind of guy, but he's very relaxed at Penrith, and it's probably the environment that he's in, everyone's very chilled and laidback but very professional when it comes to training," Brown said.

"It's good to be back under Ivan, it's good to be under a coach that you feel comfortable with and you want to play for.

"And as for the team, very similar to the Warriors, really close-knit bunch of blokes, very humble, down to earth and hard working bunch of guys. I've fitted in pretty well and just really enjoying myself. I haven't been this excited about a season in a long time, and I'm just looking forward to taking the paddock with my new team-mates."

Waikato Times