Spencer Leniu has shot through the ranks at the Penrith Panthers in 2019, making his way from the Jersey Flegg Under-20s to the Canterbury Cup NSW side and later earning an NRL debut within one calendar year.
Likened to Brisbane front-rower Payne Haas by state coach Mark O’Meley, the 19-year-old prop has been a regular feature in the NSW Pathways Program, making appearances in the Under-18s and Under-20s teams.
Leniu played a massive 58 minutes at starting prop in this year’s Under-20s State of Origin fixture, making 108 run metres, two tackle-breaks and 19 tackles as New South Wales secured a 36-10 win.
Looking at his club form, Leniu averaged 125.8 run metres and 6.6 tackle-breaks from just five matches in the 2019 Jersey Flegg Cup. An outstanding start to the year saw him quickly promoted to Canterbury Cup NSW, producing four tries, five line-breaks, 26 tackle-breaks, 946 run metres and 196 tackles across 10 games.
Following his sudden rise through the lower grades this season, Leniu received a well-deserved debut jersey ahead of Penrith’s meeting with the Sharks in Round 21. The Panthers came away with a memorable 6-point victory on that occasion, as it also marked the debut appearances of Leniu’s fellow under-20s teammates Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton.
Leniu went on to play all remaining matches for the Panthers’ first-grade side in a fitting end to a stellar 2019 and will certainly be looking for more NRL experience in the season to come.
With the departure of former Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Penrith’s breakout forward for 2019 should be pushing for much more game time at the top level next year.