Talking points ahead of the 2023 season

Some big changes for the panthers. I think the biggest one is how Luai will handle his edge without Kikau there. Quite often he was the “go to” if options didn’t open up. That edge could become targeted by other attacks also. Kikau was a missile on that edge.


Good points Kev.

I am starting to think of how we replace Kiks next season. I’d probably leave Sorensen on the bench lest we weaken the bench too much. That would leave either one of the new guys or maybe C. Smith or Blacker (Blacker really impressed me the end of last year).

I can’t see Peach making the 17 except as a bench backup.

Good we have options though.

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I’d be fine with Scott Sorensen slotting in to replace Kikau in 2023. I feel that with more starting roles he could work well with Luai and give the side an edge. If they decide to keep him on the bench that would work too. Scott seems to have the mentality of being able to slot in wherever you need him.

Though I would like to see what Luke Garner has to offer as well. Cleary had some big plans for him at the Tigers before his departure and Luke finding his way to Penrith (for what was less money than the Tigers were offering I believe) had a lot to do with the opportunity to reunite and play under Cleary. I like to fell Ivan already knows where he want him to play, and that could possibly be in the second row. He is about 3 year younger that Scott (27) and is in the prime of his rugby league career, from what I have seen at training and reports, he is looking to take his career to the next level.


Yer Luke Garner would be my initial go to as well. You could see he was a class above that Tigers outfit. Now he will be playing in a side where he just has to turn up “on point” and run hard. I reckon he will be more akin to a Burto in our backline than Kiks…but that will do me just fine lol

Also some positive on the Stephen Crichton front.

His manager has approached Panthers and asked for them to put a offer forward. Word is that he wants to stay at Penrith and their was no truth to his wanting to shift to Fullback. It sounded like he is willing to take less to stay at the foot of the mountains.


I had a feeling this would happen. We have a tight knit group that have grown up together & for the most part want to stay together.

Their managers will always look at getting them the maximum contract by getting stories about other offers (some legit, some not), but there are things that money can’t buy.

That’s a pleasant surprise with Crighton, I was of the opinion that as of last time he wanted to be shopped around for fullback money.

Happy to be proven wrong, eating good ole humble pie, and having him see the light to his actual worth and the value of the panthers family.

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Life after footy for multiple title holders is an income in itself, these managers are only interested in today…they love ABBA :rofl:


cannot wait until the first game in 2023
Panthers have much to digest with Kikau and others moving on and the burden of being the hunted as a 2 time premiership winning team
The departure of Kikau and Api whilst significant , i see opportunity and i am confident in what Cleary (the coach) may have developed.
For any team to not only be successful but to continue to be at such an elite level is no given and requires an evolution in how you play both defensively and in attack.
Our defence has been an hallmark of our success and i expect this to be the bedrock on which Cleary which shape our side for 2023.
Its the offence which is the mystery with Kenny now at 9 and who doesn’t have the guile of Api but has the grit, it will be fascinating to see how he will be used in 2023.

The scary thing is how Cleary and Luai can develop and show even more of their abilities in 2023

But again it will be our forwards who have worked so well over the last 3 years to again be where everything begins
On Sorenson he reminds me a little of Kikau when i used to scream about Kikau getting more game time and being resilient enough to do big minutes, same applies to Sorenson. He needs big minutes in his game to move to the next level. Leniu is another who now must do bigger minutes. Not just doing the minutes but using his power in making those minutes count.
He is a bit of a wild thing, almost in the MG mould but MG had it all. Leniu could do no worse then to watch videos of MG
We will still have plenty of points in us offensively and our defence will be as good as it has been.
Its really about between their ears and appealing to the teams hunger for a 3peat.
History has shown we can rise to the occasion after losing key players.
But there will be many this year who will want our scalp and the big test is how we respond to the challenge.
We will need a fast and consistent start to the year.

Remarkable to even be thinking like this with a 3peat a possibility. What a ride and who wouldn’t want it to continue.

Hope the boys remain fit and well and let the season begin!!!


Stephen Critchton’s management have informed the Panthers that he will be seeking opportunities elsewhere in 2024.


Well the expected has come to pass.

“Hardest decision to leave” - hardly, the money talked and you walked.

I do hope Jenkins becomes the next Tago

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Not surprised, not especially sorry, either. He’s a good player, but he held out for big $ on his last contract. 2 years later, he’s got 2 premierships & is a SOO rep, so it was always going to be tough to keep him.

Crighton obviously puts a high value on his ability & so he should. Good luck to him. But him leaving frees up a lot of cash to retain other players coming through or upgrade more established players like Leniu. Personally, I’d rather keep Leniu than Crighton. I hope we can.


Not happy to see him going, but our production line is working well, and it will give another young player a chance at becoming a star.

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Panthers “Next Man Up” policy will ensure that by the time of Crichton’s departure there will be a suitable replacement ready for 2024.


Too true Steve, hence my comment about Tago.

He came into this season replacing a grand final winning, representative centre (Burton), and has made the position his own. What’s more he was (in my opinion at least) the best of our two centres this season.

If Jenkins or someone else can replicate his achievements next year we are in very good hands.


Something I will be interested in this year, is to see if those who had their best ever season in 2022 can replicate that or even improve further.

Kenny - will get his chance as number 13
Martin - after some considered him
Not worthy of a bench spot for NSW, not only did he start every game, but played in the World Cup final for Australia too. Can he take his game to an even higher level?
Edwards - he’s already no 1 fullback in the game for mine, and has woken up a lot of neutrals to what he brings. But can he do more to topple those that still believe in Tedesco, Turbo etc.
Leota - his best even season in 22, can the big fella further improve? I’m not sure how, he’s improved his stamina, ball handling, maybe he will develop a kicking game :joy:?

Of course we expect Cleary to continue on the up and up so no risk or debate there.

And as for Fish and Yeo, it’s more if they can continue to give 110% week in week out like they have been doing for so long.

Glad I am a panther

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Tom Jenkins is a deadset bolter for Crichtons spot in 2024. He was promoted tot he Top 30 NRL Squad this year from the Development side. he should fit in nicely as he has some experience with some of the player on the wings (Tago & May).

Expect him to get some game time in that slot (maybe around origin), I’m sure he will take the opportunity with both hands.

Also a option is Jaeman Salmon, he does have experience at centre and his size and power out wide can cause all kinds of drama for sides who go with a relatively light speedy wing.

Either way, we will be okay after Stephens departure at the end of 2023.


Worst kept secret is out. Crichton is headed to the dogs in 2024.

The deal is for 4 years at $3.3m (ending 2028). While it’s great he could secure a great deal for this future, I am kind of glad that Penrith didn’t make that deal.

$3.3m is a huge chunk of the cap to spend on a centre (as great as Crichton is). Good Luck to him, as I feel he is going to need it at the Dogs.

Glad it is the dogs paying that kind of coin and not us.

What a mess their salary cap will be in a couple of years - so much locked up in a centre (Critta) and a winger (JAC).

A few years ago I had nightmares at the thought Critta would line up against us wearing Roosters or Storm colours - no such fear after seeing him develop, and how us as a club fills vacancies.

We certainly have developed both the nack of getting the most out of juniors (May, Tago, To’o , Kenny) and also getting otherwise nobodies to perform well above their weight (Eisenthuth, Salmon, Sorensen). With regards getting good value out of cheap recruits, it’s something I regret to say I have admired of Bellamy.

The fact we can do both this (recruit cheap) and have a fantastic production line of juniors coming through (including our country kids of course), makes it easy to see why we have been consistently the best (or up there) for last 3 years.

It’s going to be hard to win 3 in a row, let alone 4 or 5, but I know with our squad and our back room structure we are going to be up there, and giving it our best shot.