2021 NRL Round 1 Preview, Panthers Vs Cowboys

Todd Warren previews the first game of the 2021 season for the Panthers and the Cowboys….. This is what we have to look forward to.


Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith, Date: Saturday 13 March, Time: 6:35


1. Scott Drinkwater
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Esan Marsters
4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Michael Morgan (c)
7. Jake Clifford
8. Francis Molo
9. Reece Robson
10. Jordan McLean
11. Mitchell Dunn
12. Coen Hess
13. Jason Taumalolo
14. Jake Granville
15. Josh Mcguire
16. Corey Jensen
17. Lachlan Burr
18. Shane Wright
19. Reuben Cotter
20. Murray Taulagi
21. Ben Hampton

Referee: Matt Cecchin



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This is embarrassing to admit, but in the 2020 preseason I tipped Penrith the finish in the bottom four. I thought James Maloney leaving was going to sink them with all the pressure on Nathan Cleary. I was clearly wrong because they made the Grand Final after an amazing season where they won 20 games, and Cleary handled everything very well with new halves partner Jarome Luai. I won’t be underestimating them this year considering that they have mostly their same team, but with the added experience of a deep run into the finals.

Not too many surprises in the Penrith line-up. Brett Naden is out the first month after celebrating a bit too hard in Grand Final week. Paul Momirovski will start in the centres. The starting forward pack is impressive with all six of them very hard to tackle and comfortable to throw the ball around. Big Viliame Kikau is capable of anything, so expect the Cowboys to try to push the line speed to shut him down early before he can create an overlap and throw his offloads out the back. The main weakness in this Panthers side is their bench’ but with most of the starters being able to play the full 80 it shouldn’t be a major problem as long as they stay healthy.

2021 Panthers Season Preview


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They may have finished 14th last season, but at least they weren’t the worst Queensland club. Josh McGuire will play off the bench as he recovers from a hamstring injury. In the meantime Francis Molo starts in the front row. Jake Granville also starts off the bench so he can be used as more of an impact player, which suits his play style a lot better than when he starts and plays big minutes.

The only thing about the team list that was somewhat surprising to me was Valentine Holmes on the wing rather than at fullback. Scott Drinkwater showed that he’s more than capable playing in the spine, but with Holmes on big money and having played fullback for Queensland and Australia it’s a bit strange that he’s on the wing even though he is undoubtedly a fantastic winger. I could type a whole article about how good Jason Taumalolo is, but we all know he’s still one of the most damaging players in the game and can never be counted out.

2021 Cowboys Season Preview


We all expect big things from Penrith after coming up just short last year. They’ve kept the same main team and only really lost Josh Mansour, but now have Charlie Staines back on the wing and Paul Momirovski in the centres. It’s hard to find any weaknesses in their starting line-up, with my only question marks being with their bench and their depth. The back rowers are all rep players who can (and probably will) play huge minutes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the game finishes and Penrith have some unused players on the interchange.

As strong as Penrith were last year and will be this year, you can still never completely rule out any side with Michael Morgan, Taumalolo, Holmes, McGuire and Kyle Feldt. The Cowboys undoubtedly have the firepower to beat any team if everyone can fire at once, especially with their outside backs being one of the stronger, faster backlines in the NRL, and Jake Granville coming in to punish some tired front rowers.


The Cowboys haven’t won in Penrith since 2016 and the Panthers are looking for their 10th win in a row at home.


Penrith are stronger in pretty much every position and will be fired up after coming up just short in 2020. They should be too good again here.


Panthers by 16.

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