While it’s obvious that the Panthers will not win the 2020 premiership if either Nathan Cleary, Viliame Kikau or Api Koroisau are ruled out for the season, what’s less obvious is the three players I believe can help this superstar trio win enough games to get to the big dance.
They are Jack Hetherington, Charlie Staines and Tyrone May.
Hetherington’s stint at the Warriors has shown everyone that ‘Jack is back’ and playing the same type of aggressive footy that he was in 2018. Last weekend his ‘run-in’ with Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargraves and the fact he didn’t take a backward step, is exactly the type of player Penrith need in the run home to the Finals. Hetherington is on-loan until Round 15 and it would be great to bring the big fella back into the fold after that.
Staines on the other hand is the perfect fit if another player in the backline goes down with injury. He offers speed and the ability to play in multiple positions, including fullback. His four-try debut was only a glimpse of what the kid has been doing in the lower grades over the last couple of years.
Finally, Tyrone May has already shown what a versatile player he is by coming off the interchange bench and making an impact every time he’s taken the field. He put Stephen Crichton over for a try against the Cowboys, and was busy as a beaver against the Titans last Sunday when asked to fill in at lock.
What caught my eye last week…
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves snubbing Warriors/Panthers prop Jack Hetherington when he went to shake his hand after the game last Saturday. It showed poor sportsmanship by the big man and I’m sure if he had his time over, he would reciprocate with a friendly handshake.
What game I’m looking forward to…
The Storm and the Knights this Sunday is going to be a bottler. Newcastle really rattled Melbourne’s cage the last time they played in Round 5 and the final scoreline of 26-12 in favour of the Storm really didn’t show the closeness of the contest.
My tips for the week…
Rabbitohs, Tigers, Sharks, Roosters, Raiders, Panthers, Eels, Storm.
The final word…
Panthers supporters expecting departing Gold Coast Titan Bryce Cartwright to be welcomed back at Penrith are in for a rude shock.
While Cartwright might have played his best footy while at the foot of the Mountains, simply put, there is no cap space for him in this new Panthers outfit.
Penrith are hard at work trying to sign both Stephen Crichton and Liam Martin to long-term contracts as well as fit a rejuvenated captain James Tamou under the cap somehow.
Unless there is some sort of miracle, the prodigal son won’t be back in black next season.