Lang on League: Top 10 Panthers to play Origin

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With the first State of Origin game held this week, I thought it would be interesting to name the Top 10 Penrith Panthers players who have represented either Queensland or New South Wales since the concept began in 1980.

When compiling this list, I tried to assess what contribution the player made to his state in the games he played as well as how many times they represented their state but only during their playing days with


So without further ado, here is my Top 10…

1) Nathan Cleary (2018-22): Winning three series out of four (2018-19 and 2021) in the toughest arena while playing halfback at a young age is why Cleary tops the list. He also played through a major shoulder injury to guide the Blues to victory last year and the best is yet to come.

Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos

2) Brad Fittler (1990-95): Not only does ‘Freddy’ owe his nickname to the series (and Blues coach Jack Gibson) but he was also barely 18-years-old when he made his debut in 1990. Fittler never looked out of place, was never overawed and was always picked when healthy.

3) Ryan Girdler (1999-2001): Girds holds the record for most points scored in a State of Origin game with 32 in 2000 – enough said!

Ryan Girdler in action for the Blues. Photo: NRL Images.

4) Petero Civoniceva (2008-11): No matter where Penrith sat on the ladder, Petero was always one of the first forwards picked for Queensland and he never let them down.

Petero Civoniceva in action for QLD. Photo: NRL Images.

5) Royce Simmons (1984, 1986-88): People forget that ‘Simmo’ played 10 games for NSW in an era where Ben Elias was in his prime. Tough as nails, Simmons won Man-of-the Match honours in game one of 1986.

Royce Simmons playing for the Blues. Photo: NRL Images.

6) Mark Geyer (1989-91): He may have only played three games for NSW but boy that game he played in 1991, where he terrorised the Maroons and then had that heated confrontation with ‘The King’ Wally Lewis, ensures he makes the list.

7) Michael Jennings (2009-12): Jenko never dominated Origin as he did in club games but he played plenty of matches and deserves his spot in the Top 10.

8) Craig Gower (2001, 2004-06): At hooker or half, Gower was the perfect utility, unfortunately he was also born in an era where Andrew Johns played halfback.

Craig Gower representing the Blues. Photo: NRL Images.

9) John Cartwright (1989, 1991-92): The man nicknamed ‘Hoss’ was the master of the offload in traffic and he played the same way in all of his eight Origin matches.

John Cartwright. Photo: NRL Images.

10) Greg Alexander (1989-91): ‘Brandy’ played six Origin games and there’s no doubt he should of played more. Bloody Ricky Stuart!

Greg Alexander and Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Images.

Honourable mentions go to Luke Lewis (2004, 09-10) and Trent Waterhouse (2004, 09-10).

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