Here’s our final part of our series looking at the 2014 Penrith Panthers player ratings.  It was a year where the Panthers started in a win-loss cycle before putting a string of wins together to be surprise leaders mid-season.  Making the second last week of the season was a reward for Ivan Cleary and his recruitment drive over the past two seasons.

Read part one of our series here
Read part two of our series here

In alphabetical order

James Segeyaro – an outstanding year for the Papua New Guinea international as he became the preferred number nine ahead of Kevin Kingston. It was a tough year for the likable Panther with personal tragedy striking the twenty-five year old towards the back end of the season with the passing of his father.  Starting from the bench for the first part of the season, his first run on start at hooker was against Newcastle Knights in round nine.  This coincided with the Panthers winning five straight as they launched a tilt at the premiership.  Segeyaro’s job was made easier with the Panthers improving in two facets of their game; forward pack domination and experienced halves combination.  His ability to break opposition teams apart was best shown in an individual solo try against the Titans at Robina where he sliced his way through the home side’s defense on his way to the line.  Defensively Segeyaro had the same influence as Kingston racking up some impressive stats.  Rating: A+

David Simmons – after being one of the Panthers best in 2013, Simmons found himself injured after the Panthers win on the Gold Coast and only returned for two games late in the season.  Going into 2015 he will find himself as a backup to rising star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and recent International debutante Josh Mansour.  Retirement is also being considered by the thirty year old.  What you can say about the veteran who just finished his twelfth season in the NRL is that he is professional and never lets the side down with the amount of effort he puts in.  His honest efforts wins him respect from the fans.  Rating: B

Will Smith – signed from the Knights looking for an opportunity, Will Smith wouldn’t have imagined he would be one game away from playing in the NRL Grand Final.  Filling Peter Wallace’s shoes and playing alongside Jamie Soward was going to be daunting for someone in their rookie year at the elite level.  Sure, some fans didn’t think that Smith succeeded in his late season call-up because he probably didn’t bring the type of flair in the halves.  But the one thing that impressed me was that he appeared fearless and ready to take on the opposition, no matter what they threw at him.  If this guy is around in a few years time he could land a Panthers halves spot.  Rating: B

Jamie Soward – his new club embraced him and the fans loved him.  Confident, structured, consistent, ultimate team player.  We all know Soward can be a game winner from his time at the Dragons.  This year he influenced other players around him to make that match winning play.  One player to benefit was Matt Moylan who on countless occasions became that influence on the game.  We saw a happy Soward with his Shooter McGavin celebrations during the season.  Finally he’s at a club and in a community that cares about him.  He might just steer Penrith to break their twelve year drought in 2015.  Rating: A+

Elijah Taylor – I thought before the start of 2014 that Elijah Taylor would be the buy of the year.  If he wasn’t, he was very close to it.  Immediately his presence strengthened our pack and tightened up our defense.  His work rate was first class and his positive attitude in some way contributed to the Panthers cultural turnaround and improvements on field last season.  Off the field he is warm and approachable as displayed when the Panthers had a member meet and greet on the Gold Coast.  Rating: A

Peter Wallace – a frustrating year for the local junior returning to Penrith after spending time at the Broncos.  It was going to be difficult to have a fresh halves pairing combine quickly and be successful.  His partnership with Jamie Soward from round one was heading in the right direction.  The kicking game, organisational structure and communication was there.  Everything the Panthers appeared to be lacking over the years that Walsh was in the seven jumper.  An injury free 2015 for Wallace could see the Panthers go one step further and into our first grand final since 2003.  Rating: A

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – he came to the top grade with plenty of wraps after being outstanding in the NYC.  Making his debut against the Raiders in round 5 on a very wet afternoon, DWZ scored twice on debut and in general handled the step up in grade quite well.  We saw the best of Watene-Zelezniak as the season reached an important milestone.  His sensational effort to set up Dean Whare for an important try in the qualifying final against Sydney Roosters is heartening for Panther fans that this kid is a superstar in the making.  A training injury for the Kiwis prematurely ended his International hopes but it’s not too far away.  There’s no doubt he will be ahead of David Simmons when the new season starts.  Rating: A-

Dean Whare – another solid season from the Kiwi International.  When at his best during the season his skills were exceptional.  With the team improving, Whare’s opportunities were improved and reflected in his try scoring tally of twelve when compared to five the season before.  One thing which he will be keen to improve a little on is his defense. Sometimes this can be a little defective.  We raved about how good his combination was with David Simmons in 2013 which saw the winger becoming the National Rugby League’s top try scorer.  I think we’re going to see something similar when he combines with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in 2015.  We saw a glimpse of that in the Roosters win late last season.  Rating: A

Isaah Yeo – came out of nowhere to replace Jamal Idris in the opening round of the season.  He wasn’t the prolific try scoring centre with only two tries including one against the Gold Coast when he swept on a loose ball to get over the line.  Yeo was good in defense and didn’t let any opportunity in the top grade slide.  He was used in the second-row in his last two appearances against the Dragons and Sharks.  Don’t be surprised if he plays from the bench this year and become a versatile player, being able to play both in the back line and forwards.  Rating: B+

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