Panthers: Pre-season preview
MYTHS – as per Eels, rapid improvement can’t happen in the NRL. In the past decade there are many examples of teams jumping from the foot to near top of table in a SINGLE season
ROOKIE TO THE RESCUE – Jennings! No, not Michael, who went through the much used exit door, but younger brother George. George will start this season in NYC, but don’t be surprised if he sneaks into NRL reckoning at some stage
WHAT CAN STOP THE TRAIN – developing some edge defenders good enough to protect Luke Walsh’s defensive responsibilities, which was a continual problem in 2012. Also ,the blending of so many new players from so many different clubs into a unified team is some sort of challenge! This wholesale change was likely a forced hand move by Coach Cleary and one I can relate to from my time in Newcastle. When too much money is going into too few players’ pockets, steps need to be taken. If that financial basis has also led to a cultural dependency and general apathy and resentment, those steps need to be radical. But it can be the first and most important steps in rejuvenation
WHY THEY CAN WIN IT (or at least have a successful season) – many of the players coming in are under-rated and would appear to be hungry for success: Lewis Brown, Manu, Naiqama, Whare and Segayaro are all likely positive contributors
WHAT I REALLY LIKE ABOUT THEM – Kevin Kingston as captain. I have never coached him or even spoken to him, but anyone I have spoken to tells me of his personal attitude and his absolute desire for the team to do well. This may be the most significant move the Panthers bosses made since the disappointments of 2012
RATINGS – hard to see the Panthers in the big games at end of season but I also remember the subtraction factor being just as vital to the additions made. As good as some of those guys who have left were, perhaps it was a stale environment and now it’s been freshened up. They may surprise a few tipping them for the bottom.