Spencer Leniu is one of the brightest young prospects in the game, with Panthers bosses moving heaven and earth late last year just to keep him on their roster.
And while fans, and even TV commentators, can’t get enough of Leniu’s barnstorming runs off the bench, his lack of minutes this year hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In eight games this season, the 20-year-old has averaged just 24.8 minutes per game while fellow bench warmers Liam Martin (47 minutes per game), Matt Eisenhuth (33 minutes per game) and Tyrone May (33 minutes per game) have been enjoying significantly more game time on a weekly basis.
Over the last two weeks – in wins against Newcastle and Manly – Leniu has played the least amount of minutes among his teammates with 17 and 19 minutes recorded respectively.
“I’m not too sure why I’m not getting many minutes. I just go on whenever Ivan puts me on and go off when he takes me off – I’m just rolling with the punches at the moment,” he said.
Initially, injury concerns were mentioned as potential reasons for Leniu’s decreased minutes, however the Minchinbury Jets junior assures the Weekender his body is “feeling pretty good” two months in, but hinted the NRL’s new rules could be a factor.
“I haven’t really been getting as much minutes as I would like but the body is feeling pretty fresh, I feel alright,” he confirmed.
“My lungs aren’t feeling too well though with all the set restarts, but everything else is sweet.”
Leniu shouldn’t worry too much about his lack of game time, most forwards take several years to get used to the rigours of week to week NRL footy. And while James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota are playing heavy minutes as Penrith’s starting props, they certainly weren’t doing that early in their careers.
“I just have to keep on doing the extras and, whenever I have my days off, just come in and do the extra work, like getting my legs ticking over and all that sort of stuff,” Leniu said.
“I enjoy working out with Moses and Fish, they are pretty hard trainers. They just call me in, and I come down and we all work out together.”
Proving that he has a huge future at the foot of the Mountains, Leniu has played in all of Penrith’s eight victories this season. In fact, he hasn’t tasted defeat in the NRL since his debut year in 2019.
The Auckland product said it was tough missing out on last year’s Finals Series and Grand Final despite playing the majority of the regular season.
“It was kind of a bittersweet feeling. I was pretty gutted I wasn’t playing but seeing all the boys I grew up with on the big stage, especially in the Grand Final, there was no way I could feel disappointed,” Leniu said.
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 a decade.