When the Panthers take on the Wests Tigers on a cold Friday night on June 4 at Leichhardt Oval, they will fancy their chances against a Penrith side which could be missing up to six star players due to State of Origin commitments.
For the sake of this argument, let’s assume that, at best, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton and Kurt Capewell could realistically play a part in the first Origin match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 9.
Take six weapons out of any side and they’ll struggle. Now, let’s take a look at a possible team the Panthers could trot out if there are no major injuries between now and then.
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Robert Jennings 3. Brent Naden 4. Paul Momirovski 5.Charlie Staines 6. Tyrone May 7. Matt Burton 8. James Fisher-Harris 9. Api Koroisau 10. Moses Leota 11.Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Scott Sorensen
Interchange: 14. Spencer Leniu 15. Matt Eisenhuth 16. Eddie Blacker 17. Mitch Kenny.
Now I know there will be a few players I selected that supporters will disagree with but basically, even with six superstars out of the team, Penrith will still field an incredibly strong side. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of Penrith’s Origin players are rested during the series as well.
You can add to the team above, numerous young guns like J’Maine Hopgood, Taylan May, Lindsay Smith and Izack Tago, who will all come into the mix for a first grade spot as the Origin series rolls on. With such depth you can easily see why Penrith should be able to win more than their fair share of games during this tough period.
What caught my eye last week…
The way an understrength side like the Roosters tore the Dragons apart despite St George-Illawarra starting the game like a house on fire. I admit I wrote the Chooks off after they lost Keary, Friend and Cordner. That was a mistake I won’t make again.
What game I’m looking forward to…
The clash between the Bulldogs and the Eels. The Dogs finally broke their duck egg with a hard-fought win over the Sharks, now if they can beat the Eels, then I’ll really believe that they’ve turned the corner.
My tips for the week…
Rabbitohs, Storm, Titans, Panthers, Eels, Knights, Warriors, Dragons.
The final word…
I’m not sure the quality of players is there to sustain another team entering the competition in 2023. I think 2025 might be a more realistic option and, if it was me, I’d bring in a team from Perth not Brisbane.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.