Panthers NYC stars suspended for season
Penrith's hopes of defending their Holden Cup title have taken a huge hit with stars Jarome Luai and Jack Hetherington suspended for the rest of the season for their involvement in a dangerous tackle on Wests Tigers fullback Daniel Roberts.
The duo will each miss six weeks, ruling them out for the rest of the 2016 regular season and the NYC finals series.
The incident occurred as Roberts attempted to return a kick during the Tigers' win at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
Three Panthers held him in an upright position before Luai joined the tackle late and tipped the Tigers fullback into a dangerous position.
Roberts was stretchered from the field but has recovered well and is expected to play this weekend after being named by coach Willie Peters.
Luai – who played halfback in Penrith's grand final win last year – had been one of the form players in the Holden Cup in 2016 with 24 try assists (third in the competition), four tries and 39 goals.
Wednesday night's decision also means the season is over for Hetherington after he failed to have his grade two charge downgraded.
There was better news for teammate Reed Izzard who had his grade two charge downgraded and will miss just one match as a result.
Despite losing three of their past four matches, the Panthers recently sealed the minor premiership but will be hard-pressed to make it back-to-back grand final wins without their influential No.7.