Penrith Panthers – 2014 NRL Preview

0

In Part 7 of his 16-part 2014 NRL season preview, Daniel Boss goes details the first team that he predicts will make the top 8 in 2014. This team is the Penrith Panthers.

Author’s Note: There is a Blindside Sport NRL Fantasy competition, where you can compete against Blindside Sport’s NRL writers, including myself. More details on this will be provided in future articles. For fantasy guru Roman Barbera’s advice on fantasy NRL in 2014, click here.

2013 Review

Last season, Penrith did far better than expected. Then again, it isn’t too hard to finish higher than last, where many people thought they would finish. If not for the poor start to the season, where the Panthers only won 1 of their first 6 games, then they would have been more likely to make the finals for the first time since 2010. They also won 3 of their last 4 games, which may give the club momentum heading into the 2014 season. The most impressive of these was a last round win at Brookvale against Manly, when the Panthers had nothing to play for.

Compared to the 2012 season, the Panthers saw improvements in both their attacking and defensive statistics. Penrith were slightly above average in points scored per game in 2013, which was more than 3.5 points per game more than their average in 2012. However, their defence did let them down at times last season and they conceded more than 1.5 points more per game than the season average. However, the 22.2 points per game conceded by Penrith in 2013 was a slight improvement on their 2012 average of 24.0. If the Panthers are to further climb the NRL ladder in 2014, then their defence will have to show further improvement.

Outside Backs

The Panthers have added some strike in the outside backs, with the signings of Kevin Naiqama and Jamal Idris. With these signings, the Panthers have much more strike in the outside backs than they did last season, despite losing Lachlan Coote, Travis Robinson and Brad Tighe. At fullback, Matt Moylan should get the first chance to play there, as he is a dynamic player. Kevin Naiqama also has had experience at fullback and can cover if Moylan is unavailable. On the wings, the starting wingers should be Kevin Naiqama and one of last year’s top try scorers David Simmons. Both have speed to burn and are great finishers. The club has plenty of depth here, with James Roberts and Josh Mansour more than capable back-ups. In the centres, Penrith will pair Kiwi international Dean Whare with Idris. Less than one year after releasing Michael Jennings, the club has a strike centre pairing, which is one of the best in the NRL. To back up Whare and Idris are Mansour, Geoff Daniela and Wes Naiqama.

Halves

The biggest area of concern for Penrith is in the halves. At their best form, the new combination of Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace (both new recruits) can provide a dynamic combination. Wallace will be used to direct the team around the park, which is very similar to the way that Ben Hornby played. Soward was at his best when Hornby took control of the direction of the team and Soward could play what he saw. Soward still is one of the most agile players in the NRL and can cause a lot of damage with his ball running. It will be interesting to see if Ivan Cleary will encourage Soward to run the ball more than Wayne Bennett did. Penrith have lost Luke Walsh and Blake Austin, but they still have Isaac John, who played quite well in his stint at five-eight last season, and Tom Humble to provide depth in the halves.

Front Row

Penrith already possess one of the best prop combinations in the league, with Tim Grant and Sam McKendry. They have added the veteran Brent Kite to their stocks, which will be a welcome addition to the rotation. The Panthers have lost Mose Masoe and Dayne Weston and have not signed any other recognised front rowers aside from Kite. They still have Nigel Plum and Jeremy Latimore to provide depth to the prop position. Also, Adam Docker can also play up front, despite playing most of his first grade career in the back row. At hooker, the Warriors have seen little turnover and the 1-2 punch of Kevin Kingston and James Segeyaro should again feature. Kingston is a steadying influence, while Segeyaro is a highly dynamic player. The sooner the Panthers get Segeyaro back from injury, the higher Penrith will finish on the ladder in 2014. New signing Elijah Taylor can also play hooker, even though he is better suited in the back row.

Back Row

There has been a lot of turnover for Penrith in the back row. Gone are Clint Newton, Danny Galea, Cameron Ciraldo and Kyle O’Donnell, while Elijah Taylor, Tyrone Peachey and Shaun Spence have joined the club. The starting back row for Penrith should be comprised of Sika Manu, Lewis Brown and Elijah Taylor. This is a very strong back row and one of the best in the NRL. The strongest back-ups to these three include Adam Docker and Peachey. Docker is one of the strongest tacklers in the league; I know I wouldn’t want to run at him. Peachey is a much lighter back rower, who has great footwork and some ball playing ability. Both are capable of providing great impact to the side off the bench. Other back rowers in the club to provide depth include Spence, Matt Robinson and Ryan Simpkins.

Bench

Last season, the Panthers had two front rowers, one back rower and a hooker on the bench. I think that Penrith have a lot of good depth in the back row, so I believe that their bench for next season will be comprised of two back rowers, one front rower and a hooker. They do have Lewis Brown to cover in the backline if there are any injuries.

Coach

I have a very high opinion of Ivan Cleary, as I believe that he is one of the top 3 or 4 coaches in the NRL. He took a traditionally inconsistent Warriors side to the finals in 4 of his 6 seasons as coach, including a grand final appearance in his final season in 2011. It is not a coincidence that since he departed, the Warriors have failed to make the finals. Cleary oversaw the rebuilding of the club and is looking for some further improvement, as the aim for the club is a finals appearance. I for one, am backing him and Penrith in.

Best squad

  1. Matt Moylan
  2. David Simmons
  3. Dean Whare
  4. Jamal Idris
  5. Kevin Naiqama
  6. Jamie Soward
  7. Peter Wallace
  8. Tim Grant
  9. Kevin Kingston
  10. Sam McKendry
  11. Sika Manu
  12. Lewis Brown
  13. Elijah Taylor
  14. James Segeyaro
  15. Adam Docker
  16. Tyrone Peachey
  17. Brent Kite

Prediction

6th. I may be biased given my family’s connections to the club, but I really like what Penrith are doing at the moment. This should be the blueprint for any team looking to rebuild. Their squad is mixed with youth and experience, possesses plenty of depth and is a very balanced squad. Their strongest team can compete with any opposition in the NRL and they have a coach that has come up with game plans that have beaten the league’s elite in the past. The only question is the halves. Penrith will go as far as Soward and Wallace take them. I’m expecting Soward to bounce back to near his best form in 2014, as I believe that Cleary will be able to get the best out of him.

2014 Ladder Prediction

  1. Penrith Panthers
  2. St George Illawarra Dragons
  3. Brisbane Broncos
  4. New Zealand Warriors
  5. Wests Tigers
  6. Parramatta Eels
  7. Canberra Raiders
Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply

Or