The Panthers have amassed such depth in every position this season that they could easily field a very handy second 13 starting team, which would give many current first grade sides in the competition a run for their money.
Taking out Penrith’s best 13 players when everyone is fit, a second Penrith side would look something like this:
1. Caleb Aekins 2. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 3. Dean Whare 4. Daine Laurie 5. Charlie Staines 6. Tyrone May 7. Matt Burton 8. Jack Hetherington 9. Mitch Kenny 10. Spencer Leniu 11. Billy Burns 12. Pat Hollis 13. Kurt Capewell.
Now of course I’ve taken some liberties with some of the players selected having played first grade this year and pinched a few off the bench like Tyrone May and Spencer Leniu but the regular starting 13 have all been omitted.
I also left out Zane Tetevano and Moses Leota who have played most of the season in the top grade off the bench.
Even with those little tweaks, the side above is still brimming with plenty of talent. In the backs we have experienced centre Dean Whare and flyer Charlie Staines to call upon.
In the halves you have Matt Burton and Tyrone May ready to come in if either Nathan Cleary or Jarome Luai go down, while in the forwards Jack Hetherington and Kurt Capewell as well as Billy Burns are all chomping at the bit to come into the first grade side.
There’s no doubt that many of the players listed above could walk straight into a first grade team in most of the 15 clubs in the competition.
What caught my eye last week…
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart throwing a bottle of water, with plenty of force behind it, out of the coach’s box when a penalty went against his side in the match against the Warriors at GIO Stadium last Sunday. He’s lucky he didn’t hit anyone!
What game I’m looking forward to…
The Roosters v the Rabbitohs on Friday night, of course. This is always a great encounter because these two teams genuinely hate each other. It’s a fierce rivalry that goes back many years. On paper and on form, it looks like the boys from Bondi may be just in too good a form but form goes out the window when these sides get ready to rumble.
My tips for the week…
Cowboys, Knights, Roosters, Panthers, Raiders, Eels, Warriors, Storm.
The final word…
Has to go to Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo who have worked tirelessly with the NSW State Government and numerous other related parties to have crowds to NRL Finals games lifted to up to 50 per cent stadium capacity.
It’s a great boost for fans because more of them will be able to attend a game and help lift the atmosphere at every Finals game.