Record (W-L-D): 9 – 15 – 0
Top Pointscorer: Matt Moylan (50)
Top Tryscorer: David Simmons (9)
Penrith’s season can be summarised in one word: crippled. The Panthers curse of last year continued, with even more casualties. Rounds 1 and 2 showed how fruitful their team can be at near-peak fitness, and on the back of last year’s surprising finals bid, they looked to have become even more formidable opponents over the off season.
In Round 2, Penrith capitalised on the off-field issues of the Gold Coast Titans, with centre Jamal Idris scoring three tries and his right-hand counterpart Dean Whare posting two of the team’s total of eight tries. Rounds 16 and 17 showed high points even as the injury crisis snowballed, with two convincing wins over the Wests Tigers and defending premiers the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
In rounds 18 through 22, the Panthers slumped through defeats, throwing together demoralised performances that saw them lose captain Peter Wallace, amongst others. Round 22 was the definite low light of the season, with a dour 10 – 4 loss to Parramatta in Darwin – a game that will be widely considered a contender for worst of the season.
Young fullback Matt Moylan was, again, a staple in their early successes, before being struck down by his first injury since coming into first grade in 2013. His removal from the side demonstrated his importance to the playing spine, as a support for the halves and a source of valuable possession for the centres. In the latter half of the season, when things looked to be lost, contributions from Dean Whare and Reagan Campbell-Gillard were amongst very few positives.
Penrith loses an outstanding utilities in Lewis Brown and Apisai Koroisau, who are heading to Manly for season 2016, while familiar faces Brent Kite and David Simmons join Nigel Plum in retirement. Promising young fullback Kieran Moss, who has not yet made an NRL appearance, is Parramatta-bound, while Sika Manu is off to Hull FC to enter Super League. Viliame Kikau and Te Maire Martin, two young guns with huge promise, join the Penrith Panthers from the North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers respectively. Sione Katoa, French international Ben Garcia (formerly of Catalans Dragons and Brisbane Broncos NYC) and Zach Docker-Clay join them, adding to the depth of the club after a season that demonstrated just how important depth is. The major signing, however, is that of New South Wales representative player Trent Merrin, most likely to slot in at prop.
2015 is over for the Penrith Panthers, which is likely something of a relief to the coaching staff, who can focus on the rebuild for next season. Having used 32 players, 11 halves combinations, and being able to play their first choice spine together for only 9% of games played this season, there is little that can be done to improve their standing but to stay healthy, and do their best not to rest on their laurels when it comes to comfortable player combinations. The depth is there, all that remains is having the versatility to weather the storm when it comes to injury.