2016 SEASON REVIEW | Penrith Panthers
Record: 14 wins, 10 losses
Ladder Position: 6th (second week finals)
Player of the Year: Trent Merrin
Penrith’s season was full of change and at times provided frustration for its supporters, but at the end of the day short-term pain will see long-term gain.
It started with Anthony Griffin’s move as he was about to take Redcliffe Dolphins through an Intrust Super Cup season. Phil Gould made a call out for the former Broncos coach after Ivan Cleary was sensationally punted.
They were the ‘cardiac kids’ of 2016 that underwent massive change on-field as they marched strongly into September before running out of puff in front of a pro-Canberra crowd in week two of the finals.
Anthony Griffin proves his worth
It was a masterstroke of Gould to bring in Griffin.
Despite not having early season results on the board while being competitive, Griffin was the man to ‘shake up’ the squad and move on the likes of James Segeyaro, Jamie Soward and Elijah Taylor because they didn’t fit into the future of the club.
Ivan Cleary by his own admission wouldn’t have promoted his son Nathan despite being one of the most gifted players rising to the top grade in 2016.
Griffin also got the best out of some of the younger players on the side with Isaah Yeo a prime example of maturing each game he played.
Before the season started there was a sense that Peter Wallace’s fractured relationship with the coach from his Brisbane days would be curtains on his career. Both displayed professionalism in getting on with the job with Wallace turning back the clock for a superb season.
Griffin is on a mission to give his club a third NRL title.
Matt Moylan on the cusp
When Matt Moylan looks back on his career, 2016 will be one that stands out.
With barely fifty games to his name Moylan was given the captaincy, going on to represent New South Wales in all three Origin matches.
Then came the news that Moylan was to make his first tour with the national squad over to England for the Four Nations tour, beating James Tedesco to the back-up fullback role.
Moylan’s game took off after the third Origin game in Sydney as he became more comfortable attacking up in the line.
Surely Bryce Cartwright won’t play at number six next season which will give Moylan a chance to emulate Darren Lockyer into the halves alongside Cleary.
This will give Peta Hiku a chance to play fullback.
Trent Merrin superb
St George-Illawarra Dragons loss was Penrith’s gain with Trent Merrin having a wonderful season.
Coming to the club with such a hefty price tag for a forward could have ended up being the most “over-rated” signing of 2016.
Not only were his on-field efforts week-after-week exceptional, he became somewhat of a motivator and leader in the squad shown by with his victory dance celebrations in the sheds.
Merrin was worth every penny spent and more. His hard work paying off with Four Nations selection in his second chance to play international footy.
Tough calls made on players futures
The playing roster took a hit this year as Griffin looked to get his side playing to his game plan.
Along the way there were significant casualties.
James Segeyaro renowned for his play-making skills was on the outer for a much more direct approach from Peter Wallace. Expect Mitch Rein to play similarly with his signing announced in the off-season.
Jamie Soward struggled with confidence and that showed in his game. His departure rattled Penrith mid-season with their campaign looking shaky following a loss to Cronulla on July 10.
However this coincided with Moylan’s rise to another level and Cleary’s inclusion into the top grade. From that point on, the Panthers won eight of their ten matches.
The shake-up also included Elijah Taylor, Chris Smith, the Jennings brothers and Will Smith post-season.
Tough calls proven right with a top eight finish.
2017 GAINS AND LOSSES
GAINS: Gains: Tim Browne (Canterbury Bulldogs), Chris Grevsmuhl (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Michael Oldfield (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Mitch Rein (St George Illawarra Dragons), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys)
LOSSES: Braidon Burns (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Ben Garcia (Catalan Dragons), George Jennings (Parramatta Eels), Robert Jennings (South Sydney Rabbitohs), James Segeyaro (Leeds Rhinos), Chris Smith (Sydney Roosters), Will Smith (Parramatta Eels), Jamie Soward, Elijah Taylor (released)