Lang on League: How four little-known players hold the key to 2024 success

So how can two rookies and two new recruits possibly hold the key to any success the Penrith side has in 2024 and then play a big role in the Panthers winning their fourth straight premiership?

Let me explain.

For a start I’m not suggesting for one minute that star players like Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Dylan Edwards have no role to play in the side’s quest for another title, only an idiot would suggest that. In fact, I know they’ll have the biggest say.

What the rugby league media and its supporters might be overlooking however, is just how important contributions from rookies Liam Henry and Jack Cole and new buys, Brad Schnieder and Daine Laurie will be in the overall scheme of things in season 2024.

While Penrith have used the ‘next man up’ philosophy over the last four years to great effect, it’s exactly that ideology that the four players mentioned will have to bring if there’s to be any thought of a four-peat this season.

First up, boom rookie forward Liam Henry has already been pencilled in to fill the vacant bench spot formerly occupied by Spencer Leniu.

Liam Henry. Photo: NRL Images.

Now at 190cm and 105kg, Henry has a much bigger frame than Leniu but he will be asked to play a similar role, which is to make an impact whenever he comes on.

I can see Henry playing longer minutes as the year rolls on and he’s already showed in the World Club Challenge, that he will be a handful once he gets used to the pace and intensity of first grade.

Jack Cole is another rookie who at 20 years of age, has also had his own baptism of fire, when he filled in for the injured Jarome Luai against Wigan. Cole will no doubt see plenty of first grade this year either at centre or five-eighth. He showed that he was a running five-eighth during the match against the Warriors and he can also play centre at a pinch.

Jack Cole. Photo: NRL Images.

Meanwhile, new-recruit Brad Schneider will play a big role during the State of Origin series where Nathan Cleary is expected to be picked for NSW.

Schneider, like Jack Cogger and Sean O’Sullivan before him, will need to fill-in for the superstar number seven and hold the fort at Penrith until Cleary gets back.

Schneider has a good kicking game and his time over in the UK Super League really helped elevate his game. He’ll need all that experience and more to keep the Penrith machine humming in Cleary’s absence.

Finally, I also see Daine Laurie as an important cog in this Panthers machine. The former Penrith junior was bought back to the club because of his versatility and ability to play in a number of positions.

Laurie can make an immediate impact, be that at fullback, wing or even five-eighth. Laurie has speed, footwork and plenty of first grade experience under his belt.

Two new recruits and two young rookies helping the Panthers win their fourth straight premiership.

Now that would be a fairytale but you know what they say, sometimes fairytales do come true.