VB NSW Cup Team Review | Penrith Panthers
Season Summary: The defending premiers faced the ultimate challenge of going back-to-back in season 2015, however injuries decimated their side from the get go – which dearly cost them in their finals charge. They started the year exceptionally, and set the defensive benchmark for all teams. In an admirable season performance, the Panthers finished in a three-way tie for first place. However, it wasn’t their year with an ironic season-ending loss in the finals to the team they defeated in the 2014 Grand Final – the Newcastle Knights.
Coach Garth Brennan says: “I think it was a rewarding year on the basis that we produced a lot of young guys through NSW Cup this year, that I think are going to play a big part in the future of Penrith going forward. We used 48 players for the year, which is a lot, and we had a lot of guys that came on at the back-end of the year while still debuting on the semi-finals, so it was rewarding to see those guys stick it out for the whole year. To finish equal first, I can’t really complain too much considering the year we’ve had with injuries.”
Best Game: Brennan nominated their round eight and round 22 encounters with Mounties as his most satisfying of the year. They had a winning margin of six and eight respectively, and were significantly undermanned while knocking of the minor premiers. The round eight victory also handed Mounties their first defeat of the season.
Worst Game: The Panthers pride themselves on their defensive ability, which is why being eliminated from the competition by the Knights in a 44-12 affair was easily their least-pleasing performance of the season. They conceded only 387 points in the regular season – a massive 35 points better than second-placed Wyong, which is why letting 44 points through in such a critical game was so disappointing for a resilient Panthers side.
Standout Performers: Brennan nominated Will Smith the standout performer for the Panthers, and was delighted that he was rewarded with nine NRL games at the back-end of 2015 – scoring two tries in that time. He is the full package in the halves, and was a constant threat to opposition teams throughout the season.
Destined for the NRL: Besides Will Smith, who recently signed on for two more years at the club, Tupou Sopoaga is a hard-working forward that will be a part of the NRL setup at the Panthers in years to come. He signed on from Cronulla this season, and had five NRL games with the club. In the VB NSW Cup, the two-time Cook Island international amassed 187 runs and 28 offloads.
Future Focus: The Panthers were decimated by injuries in 2015, but still managed to qualify for the top four and set a defensive benchmark. Therefore, if players within the club can stay fit, they will definitely be pushing for a premiership in 2016.
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