Lang on League: Danger games ahead for Panthers

Share this story

At the start of every season there are games you circle on your calendar. Games you sense will be special. Either because you hate the team Penrith is playing that round or you simply see the team they’re playing as a threat and know that the two points will be hard to come by.

Looking at the Panthers draw at the start of the 2024 NRL season, I identified three matches which I knew would be important but tough for Penrith to win.

The first 10 rounds of any season are a lottery. You don’t really know if the team you’re playing against will be any good or not and you can’t really base your guess on the previous season either. In other words, a side which was tough to beat in 2023 might be easybeats in 2024.

Now that enough of the season is gone here are the three ‘danger games’ for Penrith in the second half of the year. Games which could very well determine whether the Panthers finish in the Top Four.

Danger game one is in Round 12 at 5.30pm on Saturday, May 25 against the Cronulla Sharks at BlueBet Stadium.

While the Sharks have been blessed with a ‘soft draw’ you can only play what’s put in front of you. This will be a tough test for both teams and Cronulla will be determined to show that they can claim a big scalp.

They certainly look far more dangerous than they did last year both in attack and defence. If the Panthers aren’t switched on, they could very well drop this one.

The second danger game is in Round 23 at 8pm on Friday, August 9 against the Parramatta Eels at Commbank Stadium.

Regardless of where the Eels are on the ladder, they always give Penrith a hard time as can be referenced from last year’s defeat at BlueBet Stadium in round 26.

Parramatta are hard to beat because they play a style of football which includes plenty of offloads and a lot of ball movement. The Panthers wouldn’t want to need a win in this encounter to lock up a place in the Top Four.

It’s genuinely a game which could go either way.

The third and final danger game is in Round 24 at 7.50pm on Thursday, August 15 against the Melbourne Storm at BlueBet.

The Storm, until recently, were a real bogey side for Penrith although results have gone to the mountain men of late. This year Melbourne look like the team to beat and a win against Bellamy’s men in this match will be a tough one indeed.

The big positive is that two of three danger games I’ve identified are at home where the Panthers hold an incredible advantage. It really is a fortress and the crowd support Penrith enjoy is overwhelming.

At the end of the day, whether they win one or all three of these danger games, to paraphrase coach Ivan Cleary, the Panthers will finish where they deserve.

Hopefully that will be somewhere in the Top Four. They’ll need to if they’re any chance of making it Four in 24.

Peter Lang

Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades. He first wrote Lang on League for the Weekender in the 1990s, and worked for Panthers on its famous Panthers Magazine for several years.

Share this story