Penrith
Panthers 2006 season preview

Likely squad: Rhys Wesser, Nick Youngquest, Luke Lewis, Danny Galea, Luke Rooney, Preston Campbell, Craig Gower, Joel Clinton, Luke Priddis, Bryan Norrie, Trent Waterhouse, Tony Puletua, Shane Rodney
Interchange: Frank Puletua, Matthew Cross, Frank Pritchard, Junior Moors

Strengths:

The Penrith forward pack once again remains intimidating. They have purchased young prop Bryan Norrie from the Dragons and he comes to the club with big raps from many. Trent Waterhouse will hopefully go back to his best position in the second row to reap havoc at the fringes with his brilliant running and offloading ability, while 80 minute player Shane Rodney will be in his destined position.

The Penrith bench is once again strong. Frank Puletua really reached his potential as a player last season, while Matthew Cross?s emergence in the closing part of the season really showed what potential he has as a player. Frank Pritchard is back on the bench and will provide that valuable impact boost the Panthers craved last season while youngster Junior Moors will hopefully get a shot to show he is First Grade material.

The halves at Penrith would have to rate amongst the best in the competition. The toughness of Craig Gower with the creative genius and elusiveness of Preston Campbell is a vital combination for Penrith to succeed in the competition this year.

Penrith, like South Sydney, have purchased in numbers and potential rather than names for the upcoming season. Penrith signed journeymen Craig Stapleton and David Thompson to play reserve grade and bolster their forward depth. They also signed a plethora of outside backs to cover the shortfall that existed all last season. This will only aid in the Penrith rebuilding phase.

Weaknesses:

The Penrith backline is once again going to be their downfall this season. Unless new purchases really kick into gear, then there will be grave fears for Penrith fans as we will once again be the butt of all jokes. While Rhys Wesser, Luke Lewis and Luke Rooney will provide great resistance, it is really up to the younger guys who will fill the 2 and 4 to get the team to a position of respect once again.

The whole Craig Gower ?will he or won?t he? saga has to be affecting the players. While Gower?s first indiscretion was enough to harm the reputation of Penrith, the turmoil surrounding whether he wants to stay at the club or not has to be affecting the playing group.

One to Watch:

Junior Moors would have to rate amongst the best second row prospects in the game today. The parochial talent has a great bloodline as well. His cousin is New Zealand representative and Panther Tony Puletua and when you watch Junior play, you can definitely see the similarity.

A NSW Under 19?s representative, he was the only shining light in a team that got belted by Queensland. He is a hard ball runner and has a handy offload. While he still has work to do on his defence he has been known to cream a few players and they know they?ve been hit. At 19 years of age, he still has some growing to do, which makes his 108kg, 192cm frame all the more impressive.

Junior will look to feature on the bench this season for Penrith as the club rebuilds and losing the likes of Joe Galuvao and Ben Ross has paved the way for some young forwards to be given a shot. I have no doubt John Lang will be thinking of the name Junior Moors by the end of the season.

Gains and Losses:

Gains: Bryan Norrie, Nick Youngquet, Mark O'Halloran, Bob Blair, Matt Bell, Wayne Bond, Liam Georgetown, Chris Newton

Losses: Ben Ross, Joe Galuvao, Ben Rogers, Ben Pomeroy, Garrett Crossman, Shannon Donato, Trent Clayton, Paul Franze

Assessment:

If Penrith can manage to get it together as a team before the season starts then I believe they have the potential to make the top 8. If this whole Gower saga affects the mental status of the team then they could be looking at the wooden spoon. Also with the recent change in coach and the way the management handled it with regards to John Lang, it may affect the team?s attitude on the field. Many people have tipped Penrith for the spoon this season, but the reality is that there are just too many good players in this team to finish with the spoon.

I think Penrith will finish mid table, as high as 6th and as low as 11th.

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