Penrith Panthers 2012 season preview

Penrith has seen significant changes during the close season – will it be enough to fire them into the finals?

With a new coach, new players and new philosophy the Panthers head into the new season full of optimism.

Incoming coach Ivan Cleary is not afraid to give youth a chance and with plenty of talent waiting in the wings Penrith look to have a solid future.

A number of experienced players have departed but the Panthers retain enough quality to suggest they will be in the top eight mix.

Luke Lewis is a world class performer while Michael Jennings, Lachlan Coote and Michael Gordon offer significant strike power out wide. It is uncertain whether Gordon or Coote will take the number one jersey but both are hugely dangerous.

The Panthers look light in the front row and the forwards must ensure Luke Walsh is given sufficient time and space to use his talents effectively.

With so many changes Penrith could be a little up and down and they might just miss out on a spot in the finals.

Prediction: 9th

Players in: Geoff Daniela (Tigers), Clint Newton (Hull KR), Cameron Ciraldo (Knights), Danny Galea (Raiders), Etu Uaisele (Eels), Junior Tia-Kilifi and Chris Armit (Both Bulldogs)

Players out: Timanu Tahu, Dane Lauire (Both Knights), Matthew Bell (Tigers), Adrian Purtell (Bradford), Trent Waterhouse (Warrington), Petero Civoniceva (Broncos), Shane Elford and Frank Puletua (Both retired)

Coach: Ivan Cleary – Led the Warriors to the Grand Final last year and Phil Gould believes Cleary is the man to turn Penrith into serious contenders.

Star man: Luke Lewis – Firmly established as one of the game’s top forwards, Lewis is hugely important to the Panthers and a genuine attacking threat wherever he lines up.

Breakthrough year: Blake Austin – Workhorse back rower who showed plenty of promise last year and has reportedly trained the house down during the close season.

Young gun: Harry Seijka – Talented playmaker who made his debut in 2011 and will be given a chance to stake a claim as Luke Walsh’s halves partner this year.

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