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Panthers have a lot to thank Luke Walsh for

Walshby Matt Pritchard

With the Penrith Panthers last home game against Brisbane on Friday night, Luke Walsh is expected to run out onto Centrebet Stadium one final time before moving on at the end of this season to the Super League.  Fans either love him, hate and criticise him.  I think we have a lot to thank him for.

NRL 2009 mid-season transfer

Penrith’s first six games of the season results in two wins and four losses for Matt Elliott’s Panthers side.  Walsh replaced local junior Jarrod Sammut at halfback for the Monday night fixture against the Gold Coast Titans.  Walsh and Wade Graham combined in the halves to post a 34-20 win with the half back scoring on debut for his new club.  Walsh went on and appeared eighteen times for the Panthers in 2009 scoring five tries and totalling fifty-one points.

2010 Panthers success

We got to see Luke Walsh at his best as he steered the Panthers to their first finals series since 2004 in running second on the competition table.  Walsh was the try-assist king in the NRL with his lethal boot paving the way for having a hand in thirty-two tries that season.  It seemed the young half back had the world at his feet and wasn’t too far off tasting representative honours.

2011-2013 Panthers struggle through change

The rot started to appear in the club as early as 2011 which saw Matt Elliott leave the club after five wins from thirteen games.  At around the same time Phil Gould returned to the club in an administrative capacity.  Steve Georgallis became caretaker coach as the Panthers finished a disappointing twelfth after the heights of 2011.  Luke Walsh was targeted more by the opposition and it could be said his game started to become too predictable.

Early 2012 and Gould extended Walsh’s contract for a further three years as the club went through sweeping changes.  A disrupted and frustrating season resulted in club legends Mick Gordon, Luke Lewis and Michael Jennings depart the club at season’s end.  Penrith avoided the wooden spoon winning four of the last seven matches.  Walsh’s impact was minimal suffering from lack of confidence post-Elliott era and a side that couldn’t carry the ball forward to give Walsh space to create opportunities.

On May 28 this year it was announced Walsh would be moving on to Super League with the St Helens club after the completion of the second of his three-year contract.  Walsh is to be replaced by Jamie Soward at the club from 2014.  Just like in season 2012 Walsh showed glimpses of what he is capable of.  Forty-twenty kicks, his running game, defence and accurate kicking has been noticeable on a number of occasions when he’s guided the Panthers to victory.  On other occasions Walsh has looked uncertain and vulnerable in defence when the Panthers have struggled to be competitive.

So I guess you want to know why we should have a lot to thank Luke Walsh for?

It’s difficult for any player to come to a new club half-way through a year and make a difference.  The Panthers had recruited Joe Williams from South Sydney  a season earlier as their star half-back.  Only for Williams to make his one and only appearance at Suncorp Stadium in round 1 in a well beaten Panthers side.  So it could be argued that there was a lot of pressure for Walsh to perform, especially when he took over from local fan favourite Jarrod Sammut as the preferred halfback.  His 2010 season justified why the purchase was necessary.  Walsh won the Penrith Panthers Player’s Player in 2011 in a dramatic year for the club.  Fans also knew if Walsh had a good game, the Panthers were in with a great chance of winning.  And hopefully we’ll see the best of Walsh at Centrebet Stadium this Friday night helping the Panthers to victory.

I hope fans at the ground (including myself) take the opportunity to thank Luke Walsh for what he bought to the Penrith Panthers club.

Panthers career
Games: 104
Tries: 9
Goals: 139/174 (80%)
Field Goals: 10
Career Points: 324
Win-Loss Ratio: 43.59%

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