Proud Panthers on big stage

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Nathan Cleary will represent the Blues. Photo: NRL Photos

While much of the league will be enjoying a well-earned rest this weekend, a whopping 12 Panthers players will still be strutting their stuff in representative fixtures spanning from Campbelltown to Denver.

It all kicks off Saturday afternoon at Campbelltown Stadium, with Panthers back Tyrone Phillips named in the Fiji Bati side to face Papua New Guinea.

The 24-year-old winger, who has played three Tests with Fiji previously, will play at centre in coach Matt Adamson’s side.

Later that night, three more Panthers stars will be on show at Campbelltown when Tonga and Samoa do battle in the much-hyped Pacific Test.

Panthers hooker Sione Katoa has been picked in the star-studded Tongan squad, while Penrith teammates Tyrone May and Christian Crichton have been named to make their debuts for Samoa.

23-year-old Katoa will play his eighth game for Tonga this Saturday night after representing the tiny Pacific island nation on multiple occasions during last year’s Rugby League World Cup. May and Crichton will also be out to prove a point in their first game for Samoa.

Christian Crichton. Photo: Megan Dunn

On Sunday morning, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and James Fisher-Harris will make rugby league history when they run out for New Zealand against England in Denver, Colorado.

While a number of high profile players have pulled out of the controversial American Test, Watene-Zelezniak will play his seventh game for the Kiwis while Fisher-Harris will play just his second.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in action. Photo: Melinda Jane

Later that day, three more Panthers will hit the field when the NSW Residents come up against the Queensland Residents at ANZ Stadium.
Playing in the curtain raiser to State of Origin II, Penrith reserve graders Caleb Aekins, Liam Martin and Maika Sivo will represent the NSW Residents side.

Panthers ISP coach Guy Missio will also take on the role of assistant coach with the NSW outfit.

Following that game, the blockbuster of the weekend will finally get underway. Brad Fittler’s New South Wales side will be looking to win their first Origin series since 2014 when they take on a new-look Queensland side at ANZ Stadium.

James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos

Nathan Cleary, James Maloney and Tyrone Peachey will all wear the sky blue once again, while Panthers prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard missed out on selection after breaking his jaw during Penrith’s loss to the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium last Friday night.

Campbell-Gillard, who is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks, will be replaced by Cronulla Sharks forward Matt Prior.

All matches across the weekend will be televised live on Channel Nine/GEM and FOX Sports, while nswrl.com.au will live stream the Residents match.

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.

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