With a brand new season just around the corner, we take a look at how the Penrith Panthers will go in 2020.
After a disappointing campaign in 2019, the Panthers will be hoping for a much improved year and to get back into finals footy.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Zane Tetevano (Sydney Roosters), Kurt Capewell (Cronulla Sharks), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles).
Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Parramatta Eels), Wayde Egan (New Zealand Warriors), Sione Katoa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Tim Grant, Sam McKendry (retired).
TOP 30 SQUAD: Caleb Aekins, Dean Blore, Shawn Blore, Billy Burns, Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Jed Cartwright, Nathan Cleary, Stephen Crichton, Dylan Edwards, Kaide Ellis, James Fisher-Harris, Jack Hetherington, Mitchell Kenny, Viliame Kikau, Apisai Koroisau, Spencer Leniu, Moses Leota, Jarome Luai, Josh Mansour, Liam Martin, Tyrone May, Brayden McGrady, Brent Naden, James Tamou, Zane Tetevano, Brian To’o, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Isaah Yeo
SPOTS AVAILABLE: None
DEVELOPMENT SQUAD: Shannon Harris, Daine Laurie, Glenn McGrady, Charlie Staines
Roosters (H), Dragons (A), Storm (A), Broncos (H), Raiders (H).
WHAT TO EXPECT
It was a disappointing 2019 for the Panthers, which got off to a horror start in a scandal-ridden off-season. New coach Ivan Cleary was under much criticism from the get go and the Panthers struggled to put a tough start behind them. They boast a young side, with the likes of Brent Naden, Liam Martin and Brian To’o all making their debuts last year, and solidifying their spot inside the top 17; they should be able to make that next step up. The Panthers’s attack in 2019 really struggled, especially inside the opposition’s 20. Nathan Cleary is the key if they want to get back to their best this season.
The loss of James Maloney might hurt them, but Cleary’s best games last season came when Maloney wasn’t on the field beside him. With Jarome Luai the most likely player to take Maloney’s spot, that will allow Cleary to control his team around the park and have a dangerous ball runner in Luai next to him. They will need to step up in the halves if they want to turn those fortunes around in 2020.
The Panthers made some good signings in the off-season, with all three major signings in Apisai Koroisau, Kurt Capewell and Zane Tetevano set to have a big impact on this club this season. Koroisau is likely to make the biggest impact, after an inconsistent season at dummy half for the Panthers last year. Koroisau should come in and add that extra threat out of dummy half; he’s a dangerous ball runner and will also give great service to Cleary and Luai in the halves. Additionally, Tetevano will add some important experience in the forward pack, after losing Reagan Campbell-Gillard to the Eels. Tetevano boasts premiership experience that will be invaluable to a young forward pack.
The Panthers have a tough start to the season, facing the Roosters, Storm and Raiders in the opening five rounds, but it does get a little easier after that, as they only face the Roosters, Storm and Rabbitohs once. They have a relatively easy run home, facing the Titans, Warriors, Dragons, Cowboys, Bulldogs and Sea Eagles before taking on the Eels in the final round. If they are in the finals picture coming into round 19, they should be able to sneak into the top eight and play September footy once again.
Top Tryscorer – Brian To’o
Top Pointscorer – Nathan Cleary
Club Player of the Year – Nathan Cleary
WHERE WILL PENRITH PANTHERS FINISH?
With this team, it all depends on how Nathan Cleary plays. He’s shown in the past that he’s made for the big time, and I believe now that this side is now under Cleary’s full control, he will take that next big step up and get this team back on track. They won’t be contending for the title this season, but they should get back to the finals.