Well I can’t believe a quarter of the season has already passed and the Panthers find themselves in second spot on the NRL ladder courtesy of three wins, two losses and a bye. The start of the year was not what supporters were expecting with two tough one-point losses, but things have really started looking up over the last couple of weeks.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into the quarter season report card.
Attack: The Panthers’ attack was spluttering badly during their first three matches with 16 being the highest score they could muster. Not a good stat for any team, let alone one with as many star players as this one. However, the side has definitely found its attacking mojo over the last two weeks and now has the second-best attack in the competition.
Defence: While the team’s attack was poor early on, their defence has always been rock-solid. Conceding only two tries per game, the Panthers not surprisingly have the best defence in the league allowing only 64 points in. Since Premierships are built on defence, this will hold the side in good steed as the year rolls on.
Player performances: Not surprisingly Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo have started the year strongly despite some players around them falling a little short of the team’s high expectations. Edwards has been superb at fullback and his four-try haul against Manly last week was a nice reward for all his hard work. Yeo, has been strong in the middle while Cleary has tried his backside off every game.
Who needs to lift: Stephen Crichton has had a mixed start to 2023, some superb touches and quality runs punctured with dropped balls and some bad reads in defence. Jarome Luai has improved over the last two weeks and needs to continue this upward trajectory to reach the lofty heights of the last three seasons.
Players to watch: No one will be shocked to see both Zac Hosking and Soni Luke as my picks. Hosking rarely misses a tackle and provides great energy on the edge of the ruck while the side looks far more dangerous from dummy half whenever Soni Luke comes on.
Coaching: Ivan’s coaching plans and roster management have gotten better with each round. He’s starting to work out which players gel better than others while his game plans are always top-notch!
OVERALL GRADE: B+
Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.