Penrith Panthers Stats
2013 Record: 11 wins from 24 premiership games (tenth placed)
5-year record: 54 wins from 120 premiership games (45% win record)
Arrivals: Peter Wallace, Jamie Soward, Elijah Taylor, Brent Kite, Kevin Naiqama, Tyrone Peachey, Shaun Spence, Will Smith, Jamal Idris.
Departures: Lachlan Coote, Luke Walsh, Mose Masoe, Clint Newton, Danny Galea, Travis Robinson, Blake Austin, Brad Tighe.
Coach: Ivan Cleary
Fixtures to start and end 2014
First five fixtures: Knights (H), Storm (A), Bulldogs (H), Eels (A), Raiders (H)
Final five fixtures: Dragons (A), Cowboys (H), Storm (H), Sea Eagles (A), Warriors (H)
Penrith have again recruited well ahead of the 2014 National Rugby League season with signings in key positions.
With the 2013 mid-season announcement that Jamie Soward would move from St George-Illawarra, and confirmation that Peter Wallace returns to the club, finally the Panthers halves problems might have been solved.
Wallace is a no-frills, solid player who will come back to Penrith a better player after learning alongside Darren Lockyer at the twilight of his career. On the other hand Soward is looking forward to a new challenge with the western Sydney club after seven years with the Dragons. The burning question is whether these two can set a formidable combination and put the Panthers in sight of finals footy.
“Me and the bloke next to me have nothing to prove because of the way we finished our time at other clubs,” Soward told a press conference recently.
“I think I speak for Wal when I say we are not going to speak about the Dragons and the Broncos all year.”
“We are here to talk about the Panthers. We both have good contracts here and we are both experienced enough to handle that.”
“It’s an exciting time for Penrith and an exciting time to be a Penrith fan.”
The recent acquisition of Jamal Idris ended the Panthers heavy spending spree. In form and fit, Idris can be one of the most devastating backs in the competition. Brent Kite’s move from Manly is a like-for-like replacement with Clint Newton returning to Newcastle. The player to watch is Elijah Taylor who’s made the move to play under former coach Ivan Cleary. Taylor is a consistent, tireless worker.
Kevin Naiqama and Tyrone Peachey represent the fresh young faces looking for regular NRL footy at Penrith. And with the success of Penrith’s victorious Under 20’s side, Bryce Cartwright is set for a breakthrough year who plays in a similar vein to his uncle and Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright.
The battle will continue for the number nine jumper with tradesman-like captain Kevin Kingston’s career extended for what could be his final season, going head to head with the younger, creative and game-changing James Segeyaro.
Segeyaro was part of the 2013 recruitment drive that included Lewis Brown, Dean Whare and Sika Manu. Here’s a club with a plan under General Manager Phil Gould. Something that was lacking from the Panthers for a while.
Is this a breakthrough year for Penrith? This is probably looking the best side the Panthers have put onto the field since the mid 2000’s. Soward and Wallace will provide the backs with better quality ball and thought selection than that of UK-bound Luke Walsh, who struggled with his game with Penrith. There’s potential out wide with Dean Whare, leading 2013 NRL try scorer David Simmons, James Roberts, Kevin Naiqama and Jamal Idris. Tim Grant and Sam McKendry will need to find more consistency in their games up front to make sure Penrith are on the front foot in the big games. A promising 2013 season where they ended up two points out of the eight where they managed to upstage big names Melbourne and Manly, but dropped games they would have expected to win on paper like against the Tigers. I expect with the smart recruiting the Panthers will become a more consistent side and very much in the mix to play finals footy.