The Panthers left plenty to be desired this season but the emergence of seven debutants showed they should be back in finals contention before too long.
2019 Club Record
Competition Points: 24
2019 Player Achievements
Merv Cartwright Medal: James Fisher-Harris
Most Tries: Nathan Cleary (10)
Most Points: Nathan Cleary (157)
Penrith never quite recovered from their tumultuous off-season. It begun with the highly-publicised acquisition of new coach Ivan Cleary, before the sex tape scandals begun. Whether as a result of the tough off-season or not, it was a horror start for the Panthers. They won only two of their first ten games, and were stuck at the bottom of the ladder with the next win nowhere in sight.
It turned around straight after that though, with a win against the Eels the first of a seven game win streak, including wins against the Roosters and the Rabbitohs. They had got themselves inside the top eight from a near impossible situation, but it wasn’t to be, as the Panthers lost five of their last seven games to drop out of finals contention.
Despite being in off-season headlines for all the wrong reasons, it was a disappointing season for the mountain men. A team that was brimming with so much talent wasn’t able to translate that into consistent on-field performances. Many had tipped them for a top 4 finish in 2019, but ultimately they weren’t able to deliver on those high expectations.
One big positive to come out of an otherwise disappointing year was the plethora of young talent in the squad. Nine players made their debut this year, including Brent Naden, Brian To’o, Matt Burton, Jed Cartwright, Stephen Crichton, Spencer Leniu, Mitchell Kenny, Billy Burns and Liam Martin. Naden, To’o, Kenny and Martin impressed enough to be an automatic selection in the team after their debut, while the likes of Leniu, Crichton and Burton showed their future is incredible bright.
Another bright spot was the emergence of James Fisher-Harris as one of the most consistent performers in the NRL. Fisher-Harris rarely, if ever, had a bad game this year and took home three awards at the club’s end of season awards. Additionally, while Nathan Cleary struggled for consistency throughout the year, his best performances came without James Maloney in the side. With Cleary in full control in 2020, he should be able to take that next step and solidify himself as a bona fide superstar.
While the Panthers lost a few players throughout the season and a few more who have moved on since it finished, they have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks to take over. The club still boasts one of the better rosters in the competition, and if Cleary can take that next step and the side can find some consistency, they should be back playing finals in 2020.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
An easy decision. James Tamou was near unstoppable at the start of the year but dropped off a little towards the end. James Maloney and Nathan Cleary struggled for consistency all season while there was chopping and changing in other areas in the team. However, one player stood out far greater than the rest.
Fisher-Harris played in all 24 games in the season, and finished the year with 3,190 run metres at an average of 132.9 per game, second only behind Dylan Edwards. He made 1,030 tackles total – the sixth most in the competition – averaging just under 43 per game.
The lock turned prop forward took home three awards at Penrith’s awards night, winning the Merv Cartwright Medal for the player of the year, the Members Player of the Year and the John Farragher Award for Courage and Determination.
2020 GAINS AND LOSSES
Apisau Korisau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Waqa Blake (Parramatta Eels), Reagan Campbell-Gilalrd (Parramatta Eels), Tyrell Fuimaono (released), Tim Grant (released), Sione Katoa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Nick Tui-Lose (released), James Maloney (Catalan Dragons), Tyrone Phillips (released), Paea Pua (released), Hame Sele (released), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Frank Winterstein (released)