Panthers Mid-Season Review
After making a preliminary final despite a torrid list of injuries last season, there were huge expectations on the Panthers in 2015. Despite the injury curse again hitting the club hard, Penrith has managed to stay in contact with the league-leaders to sit just one win outside the top eight at the halfway mark of the season.
Coach Ivan Cleary has done a good job keeping his side in the hunt amidst a constant and growing casualty ward, but believes his side needs a "re-boot" heading into the second half of the year.
The Run Home: It is a tough second half of the season for the Panthers with two clashes against last year's premiers South Sydney and other big matches against the Bulldogs (7th), Roosters (6th), Storm (3rd) and Dragons (4th). Their travel schedule is pretty favourable however, with trips to Melbourne, Canberra and Darwin the only times they'll leave NSW in the last 12 matches.
Game to remember: They routed the Titans 40-0 in Round 2, but it was a gutsy one-point win over Manly at Brookvale Oval that the Panthers will remember most fondly. Under pressure for most of the clash, the Panthers dug deep with Matt Moylan icing the game with a speculative 38-metre field goal in the 75th minute.
The one that got away: The Round 9 last-minute loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium was definitely one that the Panthers would like forget. Leading by a point with two minutes on the clock, five-eighth Jamie Soward put in a kick that went dead in goal. The mistake gave the Broncos field position and they made the Panthers pay, with Corey Oates scoring with under 60 seconds on the clock to steal the game 8-5.
MVP: Matt Moylan has continued to grow into his role at the foot of the mountains and has been a consistent threat in attack while also proving safe at the back. There were calls to include him in the NSW Origin side and there is no doubt his time in that arena will come sooner rather than later. James Segeyaro has again impressed and looks to be getting better after picking up the 2014 Dally M Hooker of the Year award.
Stats that matter: They have struggled to cross the white-stripe in 2015, scoring the third least tries (34) in the competition and also scoring the second least points (190). They have also been found wanting in the engine room, making the third least metres (18,205) and missing the third most tackles (363).
Fantasy stud: James Segeyaro has been the Panthers' Fantasy superstar with an average of 57.3 points per game, closely followed by Elijah Taylor (54.3). Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been the prime cash cow, making $145,000.
Injury report: The Panthers must have walked under a ladder or past a black cat, because they have had no luck with injuries for the second year in a row. Adam Docker, Jamal Idris, Brent Kite, Josh Mansour, James Segeryaro, Peter Wallace, Dean Whare and Jamie Soward are among a host of star players who have all spent lengthy stints on the injured list.
What they are saying: "We have a lot of young guys, and they have probably played too much this year because we have had so many injuries," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
"They are learning the hard way, they'll be better for that. We're looking forward to the second half of the year and a chance to re-boot our season, hopefully we'll get a bit more continuity than what we have had. When you have key players missing, it throws you out."
Predicted finish: If the Panthers can keep their players on the field they will go mighty close to finals football, they showed last year they are a team on the rise with plenty of depth and belief. However, they have a pretty tough run home and we think they will just miss the top eight. Likely 9th-12th.