If the Penrith Panthers first grade side isn’t quite doing it for you this year, then how about you jump on the bandwagon of their Under 20’s young guns, who are sitting pretty in equal first spot on the Toyota Cup ladder.
The young Panthers have started off their 2012 campaign in style posting five wins and only two losses in the opening seven rounds – equal with the Newcastle Knights and Wests Tigers who sit just above them on points differential.
One player who has made a real mark in his first Toyota Cup season is Panthers captain and Under 20’s NSW Origin representative Vaipuna Tia-Kilifi.
Tia-Kilifi’s form in the opening seven rounds has been outstanding.
The 100kg, 192cm monster has become one of the side’s game-breakers in both attack and defence.
Tia-Kilifi said he’s happy with his early form but knows there is plenty of room for improvement.
“My form at the moment has been pretty good I feel, but I know I still have a long way to go,” he said
“I think if I can play the full 80 minutes comfortably, that’ll go a long way to where I want to be.”
Another shining light is fellow NSW Origin representative, Harry Siejka.
The young halfback has also showed this season why he should be one to watch by Panthers’ first grade coaching staff.
Last weekend at the inaugural Under 20’s Origin game at Centrebet Stadium, Siejka starred for the victorious Blues putting in a ‘Man of the Match’ performance, laying on one try and slotting over three goals for a personal tally of 10 points.
Siejka said he’s been enjoying his season with the Panthers so far but agrees with his captain Tia-Kilifi that there are still key aspects he and the team need to work on.
“I think we’re definitely going good, there’s still a lot we need to work on but we are slowly getting there,” he said.
This Monday night the junior Panthers will look to bounce back from their round seven 40-24 loss to the Wests Tigers when they travel up to Newcastle to take on the competition leading Knights.
It will be an important clash for the Panthers not only to retain their spot in the top four but it’ll be the first time Penrith coach, Garth Brennan, will be up against his old side.
“There’s always a bit of feeling if someone’s playing or coaching against their old club, so we will all be pretty fired up for it and hopefully get the win,” Siejka said.
Siejka is the Toyota Cup’s leading pointscorer with 71 points coming from six tries, 23 goals and one field goal.
Other players to impress this season include future fullback sensation Kieran Moss, who leads the competition in hit ups/runs with 105 and captain Vaipuna Tia-Kilifi, who is currently second in the Under 20’s for offloads.