It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Penrith so far in 2017 but that hasn’t deterred selectors from choosing a whopping 19 Panthers players to compete in various fixtures during this weekend’s NRL Representative Round.
It all kicks off on Friday night at GIO Stadium in Canberra, with Panthers lock Trent Merrin to once again don the famous green and gold as he goes up against fellow club teammates Dean Whare and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the ANZAC Test.
Merrin’s selection in the Kangaroos team was controversial due to the forward’s slow start to the season but coach Mal Meninga was behind the 27-year-old.
Meninga said that given the short preparation, he and Kangaroos selectors had looked to reward those who played in the successful Four Nations campaign in 2016.
“Not only do these players have established combinations with each other, but they are also well aware of our values,” he said.
“However the State of Origin series and then the remainder of the NRL Premiership will be major considerations when we look to name our squad for the World Cup later this year.”
In the weekend’s other big match, Penrith will have five players involved in the final ever City v Country fixture this Sunday afternoon in Mudgee.
Panthers captain Matt Moylan along with Tyrone Peachey, Bryce Cartwright, James Tamou and Nathan Cleary will turn out for City while Country will have no Penrith representation after Dubbo product Isaah Yeo was made unavailable for selection due to injury.
On Monday morning selectors were finding it hard to even fill the City team due to so many unavailabilities – delaying the team announcement by nearly three hours.
Meanwhile, Panthers stars Waqa Blake and Viliame Kikau have been named in the Fijian side to face Tonga at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The exciting pair will go up against fellow Panthers Leilani Latu, Sione Katoa and Samisoni Langi, who will turn out for Tonga in the Pacific Test.
In other selection news, Panthers prop Stefano Hala has been named in the Junior Kangaroos side to face the Junior Kiwis in Canberra on Friday.
The 18-year-old plays in Penrith’s competition-leading Holden Cup side and will line up against club teammate Jarome Luai, who has been selected for the Junior Kiwis.
And finally, Dylan Edwards, Mitch Rein (since withdrawn), Tyrone May and Moses Leota were selected in the NSW Residents team to battle Queensland on Sunday afternoon.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.