The Penrith Panthers are set usher in a new era by unleashing some brand new faces at Friday’s first NRL trial against the Wests Tigers in Bathurst.
After months of intense pre-season training including sessions in record summer heat, fans, critics and coaching staff will finally get to see what the new-look Panthers are made of in 2013.
The side, made up of 24 players from first-grade, NSW Cup and the Under 20’s, will feature eight new off-season recruits including speed machine James Roberts, Fijian hotel porter turned league player Etonia Nabuli, former Newcastle Knights Kyle O’Donnell, Ethan Cook, Daniel Foster and Sam Anderson, ex-Cowboys’ monster Mosese Pangai and former Dragons prop Jeremy Latimore.
Other notable inclusions include Windsor Wolves ace Matt Moylan at fullback and promising youngster George Jennings on the bench.
Moylan had a breakout season for the Wolves in 2012 and is one of the many players earmarked by coach Ivan Cleary for a first-grade call up this year, while Jennings had a terrific debut season in the Under 20’s.
Also set to feature are Blake Austin and Nathan Smith, who both went down with season-ending injuries last season.
Smith, who hasn’t played since breaking his leg in round four, will step into Luke Lewis’ vacated lock position, while Blake Austin will play as halfback in his return from a shoulder injury.
Austin hasn’t played much halfback in his career, so it will be interesting to see if he can handle the roll and possibly give Cleary an extra option in the halves.
Cleary said after months of pre-season training, he was looking forward to seeing how the players perform in match conditions.
“The match will give me a good look at some new players we have brought to the club and it will allow the boys to take what we’ve been practicing on the training park into an actual match,” he said.
It’s understood more first-graders will be added to the side when the Panthers travel to New Zealand to play the Warriors in a trial next weekend.
Panthers side vs Tigers in Bathurst: Matt Moylan, Travis Robinson, Geoff Daniela (c), James Roberts, Etonia Nabuli, Ethan Cook, Blake Austin, Kyle O’Donnell, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Anderson, Mosese Pangai, Matt Robinson, Nathan Smith. Bench: Dayne Weston, Jeremy Latimore, Clint Newton, Adam Docker, Jack Grace, Kurt Horton, Kane Morgan, Tony Satini, Daniel Foster, Regan Campbell-Gillard, George Jennings.