FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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The Penrith Panthers of 2010 were among the favourites in the pre-season to win the wooden spoon. With no blockbuster signings, a young roster and poor coaching 2010 was set to be the year where the Panthers were set not only to be cellar dwellers for the 6th straight season but also potentially having a new coaching staff taking over for the 2011 season after four seasons of mediocrity from the current administration.
However, as with everything in life, the season for the Panthers went against the grain. Contrary to popular opinion, in Matthew Elliot's fourth season in charge at the Panthers, the team finally realized some of its potential. Through some luck with injuries and stability with the halfback position the Panthers got back into the Top 8 shedding their perennial tag as underachievers, while also putting end to the streak of being the only team in the last 5 years to not play semi-finals football.
While the Panthers did shed their tag as underachievers, they also acquired the tag of overachievers with many critics targeting the Panthers kicking game as the reason for their success, suggesting it was purely luck that the team finished in second place. Some critic's suggested the Panthers relied on their kicking game too heavily to score points and while the Panthers scored 42% of tries off kicks they were second in this stat to the Titans who never had such a claim placed against them. Another piece of information that is not recognized is that the Panthers scored the most tries in the competition with 111, so not all reliance was placed on the kicking game.
Injuries were kind to Penrith during the regular season but crippled them in the lead up to the finals. With Petero Civoniceva being sent off in the final game of the year along with Lachlan Coote missing a large portion of the second half of the season, the Panthers were already on the back foot. In the first semi final against the Raiders, the Panthers were reduced to 13 men with injuries to Trent Waterhouse, Frank Pritchard, Tim Grant and Matthew Bell.
In the elimination final against the Roosters in which the Panthers were missing a number of players to injury already, forcing Coach Elliot to start Adrian Purtell in the second row, the Panthers had no chance when Michael Jennings, Luke Lewis and Gavin Cooper were injured early in the game.
While 2010 was a great success for the club and its supporters, the manner in which it ended would surely leave fans of the club and players at the club thinking