MVPs of 2014: James Segeyaro
As we count down to season 2014, NRL.com identifies 30 players who will be crucial to their team's fortunes this year. From new faces to rising stars to proven performers who will need to lift this season, these are our MVPs for 2014.
Who am I? I didn't play semi-final football last year, but I'm in the middle of a four-term plan. I've yet to play consistent 80-minute football but I'm clearly on the way up and am exciting to watch when I'm on. So, I ask you again, who am I?
Your answer could be James Segeyaro, or simply the Penrith Panthers.
You could sum up the Panthers in a number of ways in 2014. They're either a) trying to buy a premiership by signing half the players in the competition; b) on a recruiting drive suited to an era where seasons are defined by injury and luck; or c) on the verge of building an empire to rule the world.
Okay, maybe c) is bordering on lunacy but the first two – depending on whether you're a glass half-empty or half-full kind of guy – are pretty much bang on the money.
But you could also whittle it down to a photo of James Segeyaro, who in his own little way, perfectly encapsulates where his club is heading at the moment.
For starters, for all his impact on the field Segeyaro still couldn't carry the Panthers into the finals last year, with his occasional bursts of brilliance summing up a team that didn't have the consistency to win when it mattered most.
Secondly, his debut season with the Panthers last season runs somewhat parallel with the culture coach Ivan Cleary instilled in just his second year at the helm. Phil Gould signalled a five-year strategic plan not long before signing Segeyaro, and the team has steadily improved since. Coincidence? We think not.
Thirdly, the livewire hooker has every intention of becoming a consistent, 80-minute player this year, even if it's at the expense of the most inspirational player in the joint last season, fellow hooker Kevin Kingston.
Which brings us to our last point: Given he was the club's second-leading tryscorer last year, both Segeyaro and the new-look Panthers are easy on the eye when they're on, thus making them fun to watch.
But in spite of all this, in spite of all the incessant pre-season chatter that comes every January and February, the Panthers remain the biggest unknown of the competition.
Can Segeyaro reach the next level? Are the Panthers the real deal? Will we ever get sick of hearing about five-year plans?
Like we said, the dawn of a new season brings plenty of expectations but no guarantees. But out at Penrith, there's at least one thing you can hang your hat on: if Segeyaro goes well, then Penrith'll go well.