New Panthers recruit eyes NRL game time as back-up to Cleary, Luai

Jack Cogger.
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New Penrith recruit Jack Cogger is hoping he can do a similar job this season that his predecessor Sean O’Sullivan did during his 12-month stint at the foot of the Mountains last year.

Following O’Sullivan’s departure to the NRL’s newest franchise, the Dolphins, during the recent off-season, the back-to-back Premiers were immediately on the hunt for a back-up half to play behind NSW halves combo Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.

With O’Sullivan doing an outstanding job slotting in on 11 occasions for eight victories last season, the Panthers knew they needed someone with a similar drive and experience to call upon if one of their two main stars were unavailable through injury or rep duty.

The club looked at several possibilities to fill the capable boots that O’Sullivan left behind, but ultimately landed on a man in the UK who already had some experience playing in the NRL.

After stints with the Newcastle Knights and Canterbury Bulldogs, Cogger found himself in Huddersfield during the 2021 and 2022 Super League seasons where he played 28 games – including a Challenge Cup Final – for the Giants.

Jack Cogger during his time at Canterbury. Photo: NRL Images.

Speaking with the Weekender following training on Tuesday, Cogger said he was desperate to return home to Australia and have another crack at the NRL.

“I was really looking for an opportunity to come back to Australia. I thought it was a good time, after a couple of years away in the UK, to try and make my way back and make myself an NRL player again,” he said.

“I got to play a lot of games over there… I was pretty much starting every week. I got to play in a Challenge Cup Final, so I’ve had some big game experience.

“I really enjoyed my time over there but I just thought with my age and what I got out of it, it was a good time to come back.”

After two years of English weather – including training and playing in the snow – Cogger signed a one-year deal with the Panthers in late October.

The Berala Bears and Toukley Hawks junior said he would like to make the most of his 12-month spell in Penrith, much like O’Sullivan did last season.

“I obviously saw Sean (O’Sullivan) and the opportunity he had last year and how he took his game to the next level playing behind Nathan and Romey, and then when he got his opportunity, he was able to make the most of it,” Cogger said.

“I think post Grand Final when Ivan and that sat down and looked at the squad, obviously Sean had moved on and there was a spot there in terms of a back-up half.

“I was available and luckily for me I thought it was a good fit and hopefully I can have a similar impact like Sean did last year and take my game to another level.”

Panthers fans will get their first opportunity to see Cogger in action next weekend when the reigning Premiers take on runners-up Parramatta in the first of two pre-season trials.

Cogger, who now resides in Glenmore Park, said he can’t wait to play his first game at BlueBet Stadium in Panthers colours.

“It will be good to finally get out there… I think when you get to this point of the pre-season, everyone’s ready to start playing games now,” he said.

“I’m really excited to play with the boys – the quality has been really high at training – so hopefully we can take that into the first trial.”

Nathan Taylor

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.

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