2019 SEASON REVIEW: Penrith Panthers

It was no surprise the Panthers cemented themselves as premiership heavyweights throughout a majority of 2019 but they will be disappointed with their form in the second half of the season and their quick exit in the first week of the finals.

The 2017 premiers, who were out to avenge their heartbreaking defeat in the Preliminary Final last season, mounted an ominous case as the team to beat with nine wins in their first 12 fixtures.  

They were made to rue a host of missed opportunities in the backend of the year as they won just three games from Round 13 onwards before being thumped 36-14 by Wentworthville Magpies in week one of the finals.

Although plagued by injuries throughout the majority of 2019, Penrith will look back on their season with pride with their young squad gaining valuable experience as they move into another promising campaign in 2020.

Their highlight moment

Round 13 v North Sydney Bears – 32-0 W

Their 32-0 demolition of the North Sydney Bears was a performance which seemingly cemented their credentials as a premiership force in 2019.

The first-half as a fittingly hard-fought contest as both sides had earned their respective places in the top-four with the Panthers holding a slender 10-0 advantage.

But on the back of a Stephen Crichton hat-trick, and a defiant defensive effort from start to finish, the Panthers recorded an almighty win at home and their ninth win for 2019.

Simply their best

Spencer Leniu

He’s the man earmarked by Mark O’Meley as a player who could be just as good as Payne Haas, and although he’s only five games into his NRL career, Spencer Leniu is a name that could become a household name in the future.

He managed only 10 games in Canterbury Cup NSW this year, along with five appearances in the Jersey Flegg Cup, but Leniu cemented himself as one of the toughest forwards in his age group and earned a first-grade debut in Round 21 this season.

He averaged 94m per game along with 19 tackles across his 10 games in the Canterbury Cup NSW, with the high quality of his short stints the most impressive.

While he enjoyed a breakout year in 2019, the sky is the limit for Leniu has he searched for a permanent spot in the NRL side for next season and beyond.

Room for improvement

Ill-discipline came back to bite the Panthers on a number of occasions this season and they were ranked second in penalties conceded (185) throughout their entire 2019 campaign

They were ranked third on average (8.04) and were often put under pressure when giving away penalties at the opposing end of the field.

If they are to limit the amount of penalties moving forward into the 2020 season, they will certainly be tough to handle.

Soward’s season grading

B

It was a really disappointing finish to their 2019 season, particularly how they led the competition throughout the first half of the year. Once they made some changes and faced some of the better teams in the competition they struggled to aim up.

In saying that, there’s a lot of young players like Matt Burton and Spencer Leniu who gained an invaluable experience in the Canterbury Cup NSW before earning first-grade debuts, so they’ll certainly be better placed for big things in 2020.

This season grading is the opinion of Jamie Soward, based purely on performance factors throughout the 2019 season, and does not nessecarily reflect the views of NSWRL.