Panthers v Wests Tigers preview

Embed from Getty Images
Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers Saturday 3:00pm at Carrington Park, Bathurst / Wiradjuri

Panthers head over the mountains to take on Tigers

Saturday afternoon will see the Penrith Panthers take their annual home game to Bathurst's Carrington Park, with the Wests Tigers their opposition. This is becoming somewhat of a tradition, with the two sides meeting in Bathurst for the second year running. Last season, it was the Tigers who took the chocolates in a nail-biting 12-8 win, and with both teams coming off losses in their most recent match this is shaping as a much more interesting matchup than a premiers vs wooden spoon battle should be. 

Penrith head into this game in 6th on the ladder with a 3-2 record - a little underwhelming from the three-peters so far in 2024. Two weeks ago they travelled to Manly to face a mid-table Sea Eagles side, and despite scoring first through Brad Schneider they trailed by eight at the break. Two second half tries from Dylan Edwards wasn't enough to overcome Manly-Warringah, with the surprise final score reading 32-18 Manly. Last week the Panthers had the bye, giving them plenty of opportunity to reset before their trip to Bathurst.

Despite hopes that Nathan Cleary would return from injury back to his halfback role this weekend, he has not been named, meaning Brad Schneider will yet again line up alongside Luai in the halves. Scott Sorenson has been named to return from a knee injury meaning that former Tiger Luke Garner shifts to the bench and second former Tiger Matt Eisenhuth drops out of the 17. Daine Laurie will face off against his old club, named in the 14 on the bench, whilst Jarome Luai is up against his future home. 

The Tigers are coming off a more than disappointing twelve point loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons at Campbelltown last Sunday. Branded as the club's member appreciation round, the Tigers sold out Campbelltown Sports Stadium for the first time since 2005, their premiership year. Hopes were high despite the loss to the Dolphins the week prior, and the Dragons were a beatable side on the day, however the Tigers were not up to the task. Benji has the tough job of ensuring that that result doesn't completely annihilate the momentum the club has built early on in the season. 

Returning from a two game suspension for the Tigers is half Lachlan Galvin, who will line up alongside Sezer in the halves. The Tigers are 2/3 with Galvin in the 17. Brent Naden returns to first grade in the centres providing some welcome experience in the backline, with youngster Solomona Faataape dropping out. The Fainu brothers both return meaning Justin Matamua and Jake Simpkin miss out, whilst the inclusion of John Bateman sees Alex Seyfarth drop back to the bench.

During the past three seasons, in which the Panthers have won the premiership three times and the Tigers have finished wooden spooners twice, these two sides have met a total of four times. The Tigers have won two of these encounters, making the Panthers one of their best teams to play against. Not only western Sydney rivalry runs between these two clubs, but also bad blood over Ivan Cleary's exit from the head coaching role at the Tigers to go to the Panthers back in 2018. 

Last meeting: Round 9 2023 - Panthers 8 Wests Tigers 12

Who to watch: Daine Laurie is back at the Panthers this season after spending the past three years in Tigertown. Laurie was a big signing for the Tigers back in 2021, when he had only three NRL games next to his name. He was a product of the acclaimed Penrith juniors system, and he quickly claimed the fullback role fairly consistently throughout 2021 and 2022. Some controversy and a performance lull, as well as the discovery of Jahream Bula saw him fall out of favour with the Tigers last year, and he officially re-signed with Penrith mid-year. In the four NRL games of 2024 that he has been named on the bench for he has an average of playing under ten minutes per game, but expect to see a larger chunk of minutes this weekend for Laurie. 

Brent Naden is set to play in his first NRL game of the year in the centres for the Tigers. Having made his debut back in 2019 whilst playing for the Panthers, Naden spent three years with the club before a short stint with Canterbury-Bankstown. Joining the Tigers mid-year in 2022, he then only made eight first grade appearances last season. Struggling with injury to start the year, his inclusion is largely a welcome one for Tigers fans, with promising but inexperienced centre Solomona Faataape making way. Naden has been playing all over the place for the Magpies to start the year, and had a particularly good performance on Easter Monday filling in in the halves for a 32-26 win over the Eels. 

Favourite: Panthers are heavy favourites to use the home crowd and week off to crush the Tigers this Saturday.  

My tip:  False dawns are nothing new for Tigers fans, and with Wests given the perfect opportunity against the Dragons at a sold out Campbelltown last week, failing to capitalise could prove fatal for their newfound hopes. Panthers by 20.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 21. Paul Alamoti 5. Brian To'o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Brad Schneider 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Daine Laurie 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Liam Henry 17. Luke Garner 19. Matt Eisenhuth

1. Jahream Bula 2. Charlie Staines 3. Brent Naden 4. Justin Olam 5. Junior Tupou 6. Lachlan Galvin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. Isaiah Papali'i 12. John Bateman 13. Fonua Pole 14. Latu Fainu 15. Alex Twal 16. Alex Seyfarth 17. Samuela Fainu 18. Justin Matamua

Referees: Wyatt Raymond; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Matt Noyen; Video Referees: Grant Atkins;

Match Facts

HEAD TO HEAD since 2000
ALL MATCHES 40 25 15 0
2020 R16 PEN 30-6 Panthers3699
2021 R13 WST 26-6 Leichhardt 9127
2021 R24 PEN 30-16 M'ton Daily 5351
2022 R18 PEN 18-16 CommBank 11464
2023 R9 WST 12-8 Carrington 11055
2001 R25 PEN 44-10 Penrith 11172
2017 R2 PEN 36-2 C'town 12232
2012 R7 WST 30-0 Centrebet 15759

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre