The Panthers will have 19 players representing their state and country in this weekend’s NRL Representative Round. For this weekend only, the competition proper is suspended and State of Origin takes centre stage on Sunday.
There are so many Penrith players on show that I thought I’d put together a little guide on which Panthers to look out for in each game. I’ll even give you my tip!
At the time of writing only the squads were known for each side. The final 17 were not yet selected.
Under 19’s Men’s State of Origin – New South Wales v Queensland
Thursday, June 23 – Leichhardt Oval – 7.45pm.
Look out for youngster Jack Cole who will play for NSW in this match.
My tip: NSW.
New Zealand v Mate Ma’a Tonga
Saturday, June 25 – Mount Smart Stadium, NZ – 3.30pm.
Apart from the State of Origin game, this will be the one to watch. Potentially you could be watching up to five Panthers in this game. James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen are all good chances to play for New Zealand while Tonga could have both Soni Luke and young gun Isaiya Katoa in their side.
My tip: New Zealand.
Samoa v Cook Islands
Saturday, June 25 – Campbelltown Sports Stadium – 5.40pm.
There will be four Panthers who I think will all be named in the Samoan side and what a quartet it is. Izack Tago, Spencer Leniu, Taylan May and Charlie Staines are all in fine form for Penrith, yes, even Charlie Staines albeit in NSW Cup.
My tip: Samoa.
Papua New Guinea v Fiji Bati
Saturday, June 25 – Campbelltown Sports Stadium – 7.50pm.
Look for both Viliame Kikau and Sunia Turuva to grab starting spots in the Fijian Bati team. We all know how dangerous Kikau is while Turuva is the next big thing in my opinion. He hasn’t played first grade yet but has been the player of the NSW Cup competition and has skill, footwork and speed to burn!
My tip: Fiji Bati.
State of Origin Game II
New South Wales v Queensland
Sunday, June 26 at Optus Stadium, Perth – 7.50pm.
This is the big one with seven, yes, seven Panthers players to represent New South Wales in the sky blue against the might of Queensland.
Look for Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary to bounce back in a big way in the halves and link up with teammate Isaah Yeo who will feed the ball to both Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o in the backline. Liam Martin is also expected to start. You can also expect Apisai Koroisau to provide plenty of punch and guile as he starts the match ahead of Damien Cook, who has been dropped in somewhat of a surprise.
Only don’t blame me if Blues coach Freddy Fittler makes some late changes, which makes what I just wrote invalid.
My tip: New South Wales.
Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.