With the NRL competition taking a well-earned break this weekend, I thought I’d do something a little different and look at the Top 10 Best Pacific Island Players to ever pull on a Panthers jumper over the past 54 years.
The criteria for selection was simple, the player’s heritage is from New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvali, Soloman Islands, Vanuatu or Fiji and he did not represent Australia or play Origin.
I know current players like Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Stephen Critchon and Api Koroisau are proud of their heritage, but that’s a list for another day.
So after carefully looking at well over 50 Pacific Island players who played for the Panthers, my Top 10 in order is:
1. Tony Puletua (NZ/Samoa) – (1997-2008) – 211 games for Penrith.
2. Sam McKendry (NZ/NZ Maori) – (2008-2018) – 147 games for Penrith.
3. James Fisher-Harris (NZ) – (2016-present) – 116 games and counting.
4. Joe Galuvao (NZ) – (2002-05) – 78 games for Penrith.
5. Frank Pritchard (NZ) – (2003-2010) – 144 games for Penrith.
6. Viliame Kikau (Fiji) – (2017-present) – 85 games and counting.
7. Paul Whatuira (NZ) – (2002-2004) – 62 games for Penrith.
8. Dean Whare (NZ) – (2013-2020) – 130 games for Penrith.
9. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (NZ) – (2014-2019) – 106 games for Penrith.
10. Moses Leota (NZ) – (2016-present) – 93 games and counting.
For me, the contribution the above players made to Penrith on the field was the main criteria taken into account, as was the amount of games they played for the Panthers. In my opinion, Tony Puletua walked into the number one spot while in years to come, Moses Leota will no doubt move up the list and so may big Viliame Kikau, who has already made a huge impression in only a short space of time.
There were several players who deserve honourable mentions including Frank Puletua, Elijah Taylor and even Morvin Edwards.
But you can’t pick them all!
What caught my eye last week…
Roosters coach Trent Robinson trying to take the attention off his side’s loss after they led 12-0 and then were totally outplayed and dominated. He talked about the 10-minute sin-binning of Siosiua Taukeiaho for a head high tackle on Nathan Cleary for over four minutes of a five-minute press conference. Nice smother, Robbo!
What game I’m looking forward to…
Why NSW v Queensland, of course. I’m expecting the Maroons to be a lot tougher to beat this time around but beaten they will be by the Blues Express Train. Next stop Whitewash City!
My tips for the week…
NSW in both Origin games this weekend.
The final word…
I’m looking forward to watching Origin on Sunday while praying that no Penrith player gets injured. I’m in the minority about wanting the series to be staged after the season finishes, but I’ll take three ‘stand-alone weekends’ as a compromise.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.