In the lead up to the 2014 VB NSW Cup season, we will shine the spotlight on all 13 competing teams to see how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Today we take a look at the Penrith Panthers.
Head Coach: Garth Brennan
Home Ground: Sportingbet Stadium
Year Entered Competition: 2014
2013 Result: (Windsor Wolves) 4th (14 wins, 9 losses and a draw)
2014 Key Signings: Kevin Naiqama (Newcastle Knights), Will Smith (Newcastle Knights), Tyrone Peachey (Cronulla Sharks), Shaun Spence (Wests Tigers) & Leilani Latu (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs).
Things are heating up at the foot of the mountains and the Penrith Panthers look to be a club on the rise in all grades.
In 2013 the Penrith Panthers claimed the Holden Cup Premiership while their then VB NSW Cup side, the Windsor Wolves, made the Grand Final. Add to this some good showings in the Junior Representative grades combined with some shrewd off season signings, and you can understand why Panthers fans are optimistic about the upcoming seasons.
But if we isolate the upcoming season on its own, Garth Brennan’s VB NSW Cup side may be in the perfect position to capitalise on the clubs current depth at the top end as well as their vast array of young talent looking to stake their claims.
“It’s a really exciting time to be around the club,” Brennan said.
“A number of our good young kids have graduated from the 20s into the full time squad and I’m looking forward to monitoring their progression.”
Plenty of these young Panthers were exposed to the VB NSW Cup last year, players such as Bryce Cartwright, George Jennings and Daniel Foster will have benefited greatly from their exposure to this level of the game, and this year’s VB NSW Cup side may be the beneficiary of that.
In 2014, the Panthers will take control of their own identity and play out of Sportingbet Stadium as the ‘Penrith Panthers’ following a long and successful partnership with the Windsor Wolves.
This arrangement had its pros and cons over the years, however when push came to shove, the decision to take back control of this side seemed a simple one.
“These guys will now be able to play here at Sportingbet Stadium on NRL game days which is a big plus for us.
“It definitely gives these guys a better sense of belonging and that they are still part of the club.
“In the end of the day this grade of footy is one step away from the NRL and this arrangement should better reflect that.”
Fans of the Panthers can expect to see plenty of exciting play from their side this season and there will be many players coming through the ranks that may well become household names in the very near future.
“We are probably done with our recruitment now so the club will most likely be looking to promote from within for the most part.
“The future appears very bright out here and our fans have every reason to feel excited.”
The Panthers still have trials coming up against Wenty and Wyong prior to a Round One clash with the Knights at Sportingbet Stadium, March 8.