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NRL News: Panthers gun banned for social media post, Brisbane's 'gut-wrenching' review, Bryce sets sights even higher

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27th February, 2024
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Mitch Kenny will be suspended for the first game of Penrith’s premiership defence after the NRL finalised its investigation into his Boxing Day social media post.

Kenny was handed a breach notice by the NRL earlier this month after posting to his Instagram story on December 27 that a “couple of Boxing Day lines have got me in troubleeee (sic)”.

The dual premiership-winning hooker promptly deleted the post and uploaded a second image that read “Happy New Year guys. Enjoy and ignore trolls who grabbed my phone.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Mitch Kenny of the Panthers celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the 2023 NRL Grand Final match between Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos at Accor Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Mitch Kenny. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The NRL is expected to confirm Kenny’s sanction later this week but AAP has been told he will not be available for next Friday’s round-one clash against perennial heavyweights Melbourne.

Soni Luke, Penrith’s back-up hooker last season, is the likeliest candidate to start against the Storm, with rookie Luke Sommerton another option.

Luke played 20 games for the Panthers last season, all from the bench, while Sommerton made his NRL debut late in the year and finished the campaign with two appearances to his name.

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Adam Reynolds of the Broncos reacts after a Panthers try during the 2023 NRL Grand Final match between Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos at Accor Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)[/caption]

Current Broncos squad member Corey Oates is the last survivor of the 2015 grand final still left at the club. He was left sprawled on the turf when North Queensland’s Kyle Feldt scored a last-ditch try to take the decider into golden point.

Late last year Oates said playing in, and winning, a premiership decider, still drove him.

“It’s been a long time since that (2015) grand final,” he said.

“You always look at that stuff and say, ‘what if?’ But you have to get back there to give yourself another chance.” 

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Oates was left out of Brisbane’s grand final side in 2023 and didn’t get the opportunity to return to the biggest stage. 

This week in Los Angeles, Broncos No.1 Reece Walsh referred to last year’s loss as “an open wound” that would serve as inspiration to go one better this year.

The players have reviewed the last 20 minutes of the grand final where they collapsed in a heap. 

“It was gut wrenching. I have never felt heartbreak like that before,” second-rower Jordan Riki said of the review.

“It was genuinely one of those things where you half felt sick. For us to sit down as a team, I thought it was a healing session for us. 

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“In that last 20 minutes we went away from Broncos style footy which is exciting footy and turning up for each other in defence but we are willing to do whatever it takes to get back there. 

“The end of last year still kills us and we have still got that burning fire. We want to prove a point.”

Broncos legend Steve Renouf won all four grand finals he played in with the club and has no doubt the side can bounce back in 2024, starting with the round one clash with Sydney Roosters in Las Vegas.

“If they can get a win in the first game that can wipe away the memory of the grand final and they’ll get on with the season,” Renouf told AAP.

“I am very confident the Broncos will make the top four again. They learned how to win semi-finals last year. When they get back on the big stage they can draw on that. 

“We should have won in 2015 and 2023. I was at both grand finals and it was shattering, but I only see positives going forward for this team.”

Bryce is right for even better season

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Bryce Cartwright had one of the best campaigns of his career in 2023 for Parramatta but his coach Brad Arthur pulled him aside on the first day of pre-season and told the second-rower he had more to give.

It was an inspirational chat that lit a fire in the talented forward.

Cartwright was one of the Eels’ best in the trial win over Gold Coast on Sunday. He scored a try, set one up, had three offloads and made 25 tackles in a complete game against his former club.

Last year the 29-year-old played every NRL game of the season, the first time he’d done so since his breakout year at Penrith in 2016.

“I had a decent year last year and there was a bit of hunger in my belly to go again and get even better. Brad challenged me to do that day on one of pre-season,” Cartwright said.

“(The conversation) was all about not getting comfortable and being better each week. Brad has been a blessing for me. That’s why I love him as a coach.

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“Obviously I have had to change the way I played coming to the Eels.”

Cartwright has challenged himself to be a tougher, grittier forward and more consistent throughout each game.

In his younger days he was a rocks or diamonds performer and often went for the miracle play when it wasn’t on.

“It is about carrying it out of my own end, making a hard tackle, getting to the kick-chase. In the past I probably wouldn’t have done that,” he said.

“I was probably looking to be on a highlight reel somewhere and hear the crowd roar.

“I’m in a team where I don’t need to do those things. I just need to do the one-percenters and whatever is best for the team. They appreciate that more than a try assist or a fancy offload.”

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Cartwright is not taking anything for granted as he aims to lock up a starting position for round one against Canterbury on March 9.

The arrival of Samoa international Kelma Tuilagi from Manly has ensured that.

“Kelma has made me push myself a bit more too because he is a quality player,” Cartwright said. “Between me, him and Laney (Shaun Lane) there is a lot of competition.”

The pain of missing last year’s final series by two competition points is also driving Cartwright.

“It really hurt because with the calibre of players here we definitely should be playing finals,” he said. “We missed some players but we still had enough to make the finals last year. That is very frustrating but we have moved on from that and we want to be there this year.

“This is just a bunch of blokes I want to play with and for. They mean a lot to me and I don’t want to let them down.”

with AAP

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