Panthers put next gen on show at Nines
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has pointed to a hefty injury toll as well as Four Nations duty in naming a squad for the Nines with very little first grade experience.
Fans will be familiar with names like Sika Manu, Apisai Koroisau, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Isaah Yeo, while retired ex-skipper Kevin Kingston has also been named to make the trip just a few short months after pulling the pin on his NRL career.
Others with first grade experience include Nathan Smith, Tupou Sopoaga, Isaac John and Will Smith. George Jennings, younger brother of Roosters centre Michael, returns to the tournament he dazzled at last year before dislocating an elbow that put him on the sidelines for an extended period.
"A couple of guys haven't been selected based on criteria – they need to have done the work, miles in the legs, enough training sessions," Cleary said.
The club's lengthy injury toll at the back end of 2014 – and added to by off-season surgery – includes Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Bryce Cartwright, Tyrone Peachey, Elijah Taylor and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, among others.
The club's Four Nations representatives have been ruled out on that basis alone because they haven't been back training long enough. These include Josh Mansour, Matt Moylan, Lewis Brown and Dean Whare.
"A lot of guys are coming back from off season surgery. It's well documented from the back end of last year so those guys are ineligible.
"There will be some unfamiliar names, some familiar names and some really exciting young guys. It will be a great litmus test for those guys to play against some of the big names and on a big stage," Cleary said.
Penrith Panthers Auckland Nines squad: Brendan Attwood, Christian Crichton, Joshua Jay, Isaac John, Apisai Koroisau, Kieran Moss, Andy Aunders, Nathan Smith, Tupou Sopoaga, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Adrian Davis, George Jennings, Kevin Kingston, Sika Manu, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Chris Smith, Will Smith, Isaah Yeo.