The Newsroom previews each team for the 2015 National Rugby League season. Today, the Penrith Panthers.
The Penrith Panthers were the surprise team of the 2014 season. Relying on youngsters and veterans on their last leg, Ivan Cleary saw his side finish just short of the grand final. So what does 2015 have in stall? Can they build on last year’s momentum or will they fall back into the mid table?
Last season – 4th
In: Apisai Koroisau (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tupou Sopoaga (Cronulla Sharks), Rodney Coates and Adrian Davis (Queensland Cup).
Out: Tim Grant (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Kevin Kingston (retired), Eto Nabuli (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers), Wes Naiqama (London Broncos), Matt Robinson, Kierran Moseley and Ryan Simpkins (Gold Coast Titans), Tom Humble, Luke Capewell, Anthony Cherrington and Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (Queensland Cup), Ethan Cook (released).
Strengths: The mountain men won a majority of their matches last year because of their positive never-say-die attitude. This was evident in last year’s semi final against the Roosters. Trailing 18-12 with five minutes on the clock, they somehow came out with 19-18 victory. If they can bring the same energy into this season there is no reason to think they cannot go further.
Weaknesses: Last season they hardly ever seemed to play with a full strength squad, which made their rise to the top even more remarkable. Peter Wallace, Elijah Taylor and Tyrone Peachey all suffered long-term injuries. Some injuries are inevitable, but Ivan Cleary will be hoping for as little as possible this season.
Key player: Matt Moylan was one of the breakout stars of last season. His style of play was compared to Queensland legend Darren Lockyer. His remarkable form was rewarded with a spot in the Prime Minister’s XI and NRL All Star sides. With the absence of Jarryd Hayne he may be representing New South Wales this year as well. Moylan turns 24 in June but is already a big game player. Expect Penrith to hand him the ball when the game is on the line.
Coach: It was considered a bit of a shock when Ivan Cleary took over as head coach in 2012, but last year it was vindicated with a preliminary final finish. The former New Zealand Warrior coach took a team of misfits from underachievers to minor premiership contenders.
Prediction: 3rd – Chris Matthews-Darby
Top photo from Naparazzi’s Flickr photostream.