Penrith Panthers 2017 season review

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru


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    The Panthers came into 2017 as equal premiership favourites, however, after a nightmare start to the season, they never really made their presence felt.

    While they did build some significant momentum in the second half of the season and into the finals, their failure to get past Week 2 matched their 2016 output. This was a side that never really reached its potential, despite some relative success.

    Season Finish – Exited Week 2 of Finals – (Regular Season – seventh, 13 Wins, 11 Losses, 504 Points For, 459 Points Against)

    Season Ranking 6/10 – I can’t go any higher than a six for Penrith, given they came into the season as equal favourites for the Premiership. However, after a disastrous start to the season where they won just two of their first nine games, they did well to make the finals with relative comfort in the end.

    While they kept racking up the wins late in the season, many of them were unconvincing and, despite upsetting Manly in Week 1 of the finals, they never really looked a threat to the Top 4.

    Coaching Ranking 5/10 (Anthony Griffin) – I mark Griffin quite harshly here as I think he failed to get the best out of this side. Plenty of times they looked like a team playing without a plan inside the opposition 20-metre zone. Penrith, for me, relied on talent and unstructured tries to get by in many games.

    Anthony Griffin

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Griffin has proven, over stints at the Broncos and Panthers, that he is a solid, dependable first grade coach. However, his sides have never quite lived up to expectations, nor has he been able to install a game plan that has been effective in the finals. If I am being honest, I don’t rate Griffin as a coach capable of taking the Panthers to a Premiership.

    Best Win – Round 24 – Canberra Raiders 22 Penrith Panthers 26 @ GIO Stadium – I thought this was clearly the Panthers’ best win of the season, given what was at stake, and that the Raiders were just starting to hit their straps.

    Played in front of the big crowd in Canberra, the Panthers started fast before a mid-game slump saw them needing a try in the final five minutes to get their second win over the Raiders for the season. Fast, physical and up-tempo, this is how Penrith fans wanted their team to play most weeks, however, they often underwhelmed.

    Worst Loss – Round 17 – South Sydney Rabbitohs 42 Penrith Panthers 14@ ANZ Stadium – This was a shocking performance from the Panthers, considering they jumped out to an 8-0 against a Souths’ side that struggled to score points this season.

    They just mentally were not there in this game, as the Rabbitohs turned on the style, scoring a number of extravagant tries.

    Best Player – Reagan Campbell-Gillard – Campbell-Gillard really asserted himself as the leader of the Penrith pack this year. While there were perhaps bigger names in the forward pack, Campbell-Gillard was outstanding throughout, particularly in the back half of the year. He averaged around 130 metres per game, but it was the quality of his hit ups that were telling for mine.

    He has great leg speed for a prop, and got over the advantage line more than any other Penrith forward. With a great attitude in defence he could easily break into the Blues’ team in the next year or two. While I thought Nathan Cleary had a great back end to the season, I thought the Panthers’ attack looked a bit flat for long periods of this season, particularly in the opposition red zone.

    Most Disappointing Player – Matt Moylan – There were a few candidates here to be fair. I thought both James Tamou and Trent Merrin failed to really play with the aggression and quality you would expect from two experienced former representative players. However, Moylan, as the captain, looked unsettled and played hot and cold football when he was on the field.

    Matt Moylan of the Panthers runs the ball up

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Moylan has never looked comfortable in the captain’s role, and I’m really questioning why the Panthers went down that path with him. He has all the talent in the world, however his laid back attitude might either need a change of scenery or a rethink if he is to make the most of his career.

    2018 Prospects – The Panthers will retain a pretty strong and stable roster in 2018. To me, though, they need to find that ruthless edge and more consistency in their game that the top teams, in the Storm, Broncos, Roosters and Cowboys, often bring.

    Penrith have more depth than most clubs in the NRL and, given they are not overly affected by Origin, they really should be setting their sights on a Top 4 finish.

    This side can’t rely on flying under the radar anymore. Griffin, and some of their senior players, I think, need to find another level in 2018.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 8:33am
      The Barry said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      I never bought into the pre season hype about Penrith but still think they had a disappointing year especially considering the way the draw worked out quite favourably for them.

      I think they need a bit of mongrel. I don’t think there’s too many forward packs nervous about taking them on.

      The big positive was Cleary’s second season. He did lose his way a little bit mid season when it seemed all he had in the kitbag was the big bomb from 45 out.

      The Panthers are heaping a lot of pressure on Cleary to run the team, do the long kicking, attacking kicking, goal kicking and be the creator. I don’t think he’s 20 yet.

      You’d have to think that a lot of their young players will be in line for contract upgrades sooner than later – particularly as guys like Cleary and RCG start making rep sides.

      That could equate to a premiership window closing before it really opens if they don’t pull their fingers out and start delivering on their potential.

      On that note, not sure I’ve drunk the RCG kool aid yet. He’s good but I’ve seen plenty of games where he’s been dominated. He’s a young prop so shouldn’t be judged too harshly on that yet but he’s being over hyped a bit at the moment for mine.

    • Roar Rookie

      October 18th 2017 @ 10:15am
      up in the north said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      I thought it was strange that Gould gave Ivan the chop only to hire Griffen. His time at the Bronc’s was far from a success, with a lot of poor positional choices and allowing some quality players to slip away.
      Fully agree with your rating of his coaching ability.

    • October 18th 2017 @ 10:17am
      Albo said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      As a long term Panthers fan, I found the season to be very disappointing and felt they went backwards from 2016. They had a dream draw, and not a lot of injuries this year. But they started the year under prepared. Got going late in the season, again ! Then failed to kick on in September. The only players to have improved their performance in 2017 were Cleary, Campbell-Gillard and Dylan Edwards. The rest went backwards or were given little opportunity to develop. The Moylan saga has obviously been a major impairment to the team’s performances. He is very special player when his mind is on the game. But a distraction to others if it is not. This needs to be sorted out immediately and not left to linger into the 2018 season. Either he wants to play with the team or he is moved on. If he does seriously want to play he could well be part of great spine that the Panthers could have in a season or two. Whilst the Panthers have plenty of young talent coming through the grades, there is really just one kid at this stage who is destined for the big time and that is their Holden Cup skipper and number 9, Wayde Egan. He needs to be locked up tight now by the Panthers. A spine of Edwards, Cleary, Moylan & Egan could be anything for the Panthers in coming years. If Moylan is not there, they need to find another 6. I don’t consider May as the answer. Perhaps Jerome Luai from the Holden Cup could develop here ? Outside of this potential great spine , they need some mongrel in the pack . Wallace,Tamou & Merrin have had their day. Fisher-Harris needs more game time to develop. As do Latu, Kikau & Leota. Yeo & Harawirra -Naira were annointed as the 80 minute backrowers and were solid on the edges but limited and one dimensional. They have made no new signings for next year so they are relying on their current roster to improve or some young guys to emerge from the juniors. As for the backline, they are good metre eaters but very limited as attacking options and have plenty of defensive flaws . Mansour is clueless under the high ball, DWZ is a mistake a thon with the ball in hand. Peachey is a utility holding down a centre spot who rarely passes the ball, and Blake has ability based on his speed but is full of errors. As for the coach, the lack of improvement this year and the handling of the Moylan issue , says it all really. Much improvement is needed here for the Panthers to become a serious force in 2018. The potential is still there based around their spine, but the missing ingredients of real hunger and direction needs to be found before any success can be forecast.

    • October 18th 2017 @ 12:28pm
      Eddie Otto said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

      That’s the problem I have with Penrith guys. Things were on a it of a platter for them this season and their standard of play was ordinary. Even a lot of their wins I thought they got by on talent alone. They didn’t seem to have much of a plan inside the opposition 20 where they were particularly hard to watch. Plenty of their tries were through individual brilliance or unstructured play. Griffen doesn’t seem to be able to get the best out of them. His record foe mine is very underwhelming as a coach considering some of the rosters he has had at his disposal.

    • October 18th 2017 @ 4:32pm
      BleakCity said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

      Yep more questions going into next season than answers for the panthers – and that’s excluding the Moylan mystery box which clearly impacted the season and will obviously impact next.

      There’s a lot of talent in this team but who’s holding it together? Cleary is talented but in some of the big games I watched he wasn’t pulling the reins like Cronk would do. Either there was no game plan or those running the show had clocked off & were just waiting for an individual to make something happen.

      Back to Moylan, I’m still not sure what his position is and maybe that is a wider problem with the Panthers. There’s probably half a dozen of their stars you could say the same thing about. Too many “impact players” who don’t have an obvious specialist position.

    • Roar Pro

      October 18th 2017 @ 7:43pm
      Adam Hayward said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

      I think they may have crumbled under their own hype at the start of the year. I still think they’re at least 2 years away from being a genuine contender. The test for Clearly now is how he’ll handle next year, because he will have a giant target on his back.

      They lacked consistency in all areas and I blame the coach for that. They also lacked leadership. Moylan is no leader and he’s definitely no captain. Leave the captaincy with Wallace and force players to take responsibility and accountability with their role in the team.

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