SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 12: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers scores a try during the round 23 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys at Pepper Stadium on August 12, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Actual Finish: 7th

Best Performer: Nathan Cleary

The sky is the absolute limit for Nathan Cleary after yet another brilliant season. His efforts were made even more impressive considering the amount of halves partners he had during 2017. In 2018 there will be no such troubles as he and Maloney could very well form a partnership at both club and state level. Eight try assists, 11 tries, eight line breaks, 84 goals. Not a bad output for a 20-year-old in only his second season of NRL. You’d have to think his game will improve yet again after a second full pre-season, and the fact Maloney will be there to take the reigns. Cleary recently admitted he wasn’t ready for Origin, but if he plays like he did this year, he’s not going to be given a choice.

Season Highlight: Round 18 – Round 24 win streak

There was a very real opportunity that Penrith, despite all the talent in the world, would miss the finals series in 2017. Heading into their round 18 clash with Manly, they realistically needed to win six of their remaining nine games to be sure of playing in mid to late September. Their 16-8 win over Manly was the start of a seven-game winning streak that saw them finish in the seventh position. The Warriors, Titans, Bulldogs, Tigers, Cowboys and Raiders would join Manly as victims of the fast-finishing Panther outfit. After losing three of their first four home games, they would only lose one further game at home all season. That’s the home form we expected from the beginning of the season. The winning streak gave them the confidence to knock Manly out in the first weekend of finals.

Best Signing: James Maloney

In James Maloney, the Panthers have signed a current NSW and Australian half with two premierships to his name. In his first season with the Sharks, he delivered a premiership that broke an almost 50-year drought. To say he has runs on the board is an understatement. Maloney didn’t have the greatest 2017 and seemed distracted, but I believe his efforts in 2018 will be greatly improved after securing his future. His job will be both to guide the side around and also to mentor young Nathan Cleary. There’s a very good chance that Penrith will host the NSW halves combination next season. He has the odd mistake and plenty of penalties in his game, but there is absolutely no downside to this signing for the mountain man.

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Forward depth emerges: Penrith will be home to one of the game’s best forward packs in 2017 after the emergence of Corey Harawira-Naera and the continued development of Reagan Campbell-Gillard. RCG’s efforts were such that he earned a spot in the World Cup for the Kangaroos and now has a winner’s medal to his name. CHN emerged an attacking wrecking ball. His 12 line breaks and seven tries make him one of the most dangerous big men in the competition. Trent Merrin and James Tamou didn’t set the world on fire, but you could argue that Merrin especially didn’t let anyone down. The depth of this side is such that CHN and Tyrone Peachey could realistically be fighting for one bench spot in 2018.

Centres fire(ish): I’m an unashamed fan of Waqa Blake. I consider him to be one of the game’s most underrated and underappreciated backs. His stats were fairly impressive in 2017, with 12 line breaks and seven tries, although I’d expect that output to jump on the back of Jame Maloney’s signing. Same too with Dean Whare, who had moments to remember in 2017. Tyrone Peachey also had some impressive games in the back line, although I’d expect him to revert to a wide-running back row position off the bench. Blake and Whare showed enough this season to suggest that with Maloney and Cleary running the shop, they’ll be a huge threat moving forward.

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Dylan Edwards: 21-year-old Dylan Edwards was so impressive in his 14 NRL games this season that the club was able to offer up prodigal son Matt Moylan in order to attract James Maloney to the club. If Edwards hadn’t provided so much to suggest he could become a superstar number one, you have to believe the Panthers would have shown more hesitance in the swap deal. Nine line breaks, five try assists and two tries of his own shown a great output for such a young fullback. He’ll be one to watch in 2018.

Season Grading: B-

I was torn on whether to award a B or a C so we’ll split the difference. It’s tough to claim any side who made it through to the second week of finals had a disappointing season, but you can’t help but think Penrith were primed to do a little more.

Finishing 7th was a letdown, that cannot be argued. This side, after their incredible 2016 season, should have been in the top four fight. Their win over Manly in the first weekend of the finals saved their season from an overall standpoint.

The aforementioned emergence of the likes of CHN and Dylan Edwards were two huge positives. Yet for every positive came a negative. Bryce Cartwright had a shocker of a season on and off the field, Matt Moylan has departed, and Trent Merrin and James Tamou struggled to live up to their huge reputations.

Overall I think Penrith fans can be pretty happy with a second round of finals finish, however at the start of the season all the talk was of much higher honours. It’s a strange one, as in terms of pure results, it’s probably a high ranging B rating. Compared to expectation, I think they underachieved.


    • Speaking of 5 year plans..
      You cheated in the 2013 GF and still lost to the Roosters.
      I reckon 2011 was sus also but too far back now.
      Manly – 5 years of cheating.

      • Why mouth off like a meathead???
        Even the most die hard of rooter supporters must realise they are cheating, do you think they won’t be caught??? Especially with your new money man joe Kelly???
        Sad excuse for a club rooters, buying gronk was the stupidest thing ever and every club will be laughing at you when it doesn’t pay off.
        Not to mention old ball hog Tedesco, wonder how long it takes for Mitchell, tupou and Ferguson get sick of him never passing to them…

        • @ crowy

          It’s quite an ironic statement for a chooks supporter to make considering everyone knows they bought a premiership in 2013 and the Roosters “5 year plan” is to do the same thing 5 years later when they have not been able to make a GF since.

          Back in 2013 the Roosters signed 3 marquee players (SBW, Maloney and Jennings) while most other clubs only had 1. Even Matthew Johns came out on radio and in the electronic media stating that the Roosters, by conservative estimates, would have been $4.5 mill OVER the cap yet there was no salary cap audit and the Roosters proved once again money and an unlimited salary cap can buy a premiership title.

          Now, 5 years later, with a team already boasting a number of rep players, they are trying to sign 3 more marquee players at the same time (Cronk, Tedesco and Crichton). They have also dramatically increased the money Keary is on and are poised to re-sign one former and one current international rep player (Friend and Cordner) and they think we are all fools to think that Nikorima ($350K) and Pearce will cover this.

          Chooks are cheats mate, nothing will ever change and despite that they still can’t come close to the number of premiership titles held by the Rabbitohs or the success of the Sea Eagles over the last 10 years.

          When Nick Politis is no longer able to influence the game (and that day will come) then the Roosters will be unprotected and friendless and will quickly fade into oblivion. We just need to be patient and wait.

        • SSTID,
          Yep that’s my point, everyone knows they cheating and will get caught, I would just be sitting back quietly enjoying it, not flapping my trap off bragging, cause that day of being caught will be around shortly.
          Yes manly done the wrong thing, but from all reports it’s from 2 senior officials doing the wrong and a very small amount of money, so yep it’s still cheating and wrong, but al clubs do it.
          Now I have read we might be in trouble because a wealthy old grandma came to the club wanting to sponsor some players, and the club has put her in touch with players managers and then the deal has happeneded,
          But because she came to club first not knowing we might be in trouble for that. Now that is stupid because EVERY club points sponsors to certain players, and his was a legitimate small mistake, that the club did not source themselves it just ha some paper trail that’s leads to them.
          Tpa are a joke and need to disappear. There is no way in the world they can or are polices properly..

        • Crowy, I agree the whole TPA system needs to be fixed. To that there is no doubt, and I’d expect every single club has manipulated it, to varying degrees.

          That said, I couldn’t help but detect a very slight little positive (less nagative) spin in your story, for example:

          “A wealthy old grandma”. That creates a perception of innocents, but there is no shortage of wealthy / successful business people who are grandparents.

          “Came to the club wanting to sponsor players”. Why would she want to do that? Was it because she wanted to promote her business / products and/or to help the club retain / recruit players?

          “The club put her in touch with player managers”. At random, or perhaps directed her to the managers of players that Manly wanted to recruit or re-sign in the very near term. Perhaps?

          The club knew who she was, what she wanted to do, and probably (guessing) what sort of coin is involved, because they would have (very likely) sounded her out as a potential club sponsor.

          I’ve not having a crack, but maybe, just maybe, it’s not as innocent as a “grandma” getting a phone number or 2 from the club.

        • Eels,
          No definitely not making it out to be poor little grandma and her coin purse, and stuff like that.
          But I have read in need and heard from someone in the know, it was a innocent mistake, when she went to he club herself, apparently in wanting to help out Kieran Foran. No one will know the exact details so it’s only what I heard, but the law is manly should of turned her away with no info given, but apparently put her in touch with Forans manager.
          Like I say just what I hear, but that’s the exact reason why tpas should be gone.
          I have always said if I won big on lotto or something I would help sponsor some manly players that I liked, I wouldn’t know where to start except ring the club.. what you think???

        • I take your point, but the system is abused enough as it is, so allowing any sort of discretion is only going to make it worse.

          I’d assume there is a protocol the clubs should follow, which may be to contact the NRL or some such. I don’t actually know.

        • “I’d assume there is a protocol”

          mighty, I finally worked out why you take eveything so literally… you are a protocol droid, the C3PO of ZT. Bahahahahaha 😂

          I just got back from seeing “The Last Jedi” and it was good to remember there IS a universe apart from the ZT one.

          Why do I picture the “little granny” in Madagascar (“Bad kitty!”) when you talk about the Sea Eagles secret benefactor. Watch out, she isn’t soneone that you want to mess with.

        • I’m not sure that I take everything literally, or even why you think I do, but I’m happy to take the Mickey out of you more often if you think that will help (lighten my persona).

        • Well C3PO, if you want to tinker with your programming and adapt your persona to appear more like K-2SO (from “Rogue One”), more sarcastic with a droll comedic style then be my guest. You make me laugh as it is but variety is the spice of life so “lay on Macduff”.

          “happy to take the Mickey out of you”

          Even though Disney own the Star Wars franchise, which makes this more fitting, I think I am more Bugs Bunny than Mickey Mouse so plug away Elmer!

          The “silly season” is becoming more serious by the day and some of the posts by Roosters supporters are so devoid of reasoning and exaggerated for effect that they more resemble a French farce than informed opinion supported by facts. “Help me C3PO, you’re my only hope!”

    • As Kate mclymont stated “Manly arnt the only club”
      As the NRL have done , a review into TPA’s
      Better pray chicken hawk , your pathetic no supporters no juniors club and the Broncs will be top of the hit lists and when TPA’s are gone so will your title hopes 😂😂😂😂😂

      • It is all just talk from the NRL. Private alternative income for players is too hard to police and outside the governance and jurisdiction of the NRL. If such a thing were possible trust me, the teams that have abused this for so long will simply find other ways of “retaining” players and “rewarding” their loyalty. They have been doing it for so long now that they are experts at hiding any trace of their shady dealings.

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