You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Panthers debutants Spencer Leniu, Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton in 2019.

Ivan Cleary has heaped praise on Penrith's junior system after another three debutants tasted success on NRL debut in Friday night’s 26-20 win over the Sharks.

Teenagers Matt Burton, Spencer Leniu and Stephen Crichton had nights to remember after each took something away against a far more experienced and battle-hardened Sharks outfit.

Burton, 19, who only met some of his new team-mates earlier this week, set up the opening try for left edge partner Brent Naden to settle the nerves in his maiden match.

Interchange forward Leniu came onto the paddock in the second half for just 11 minutes but made an immediate impact with a big shot on Paul Gallen.

But the final play of the night from Crichton, who leapt high in gusty conditions to bring down a bomb and fend off any chance of a final Sharks comeback, topped off Cleary's evening.

"In all my coaching jobs it's something I've always done through necessity," Cleary said of blooding junior players.

"Clubs like the Warriors it's a bit like here, basically development clubs, the idea is to bring kids through and they never let you down.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Sharks

"Some of the ones that I've brought through this year… Liam Martin I thought we'd bring in early but some of the others I didn't have on the radar.

"It shows our development system is working well. For the history of the club and our mandate of developing players, to have so many at once. I'm not sure what other team is doing that. It's a real tick to our system."

Burton will most likely make way for James Maloney next week but Leniu and Crichton could be called on by Cleary more often.

Crichton in particular was picked this week over Kiwi international Dean Whare, who was dropped to Canterbury Cup.

"It certainly wasn't made lightly but we made that earlier in the week and tried to keep it quiet for Stephen's sake," Cleary said.

Burton announces himself with a try assist for Naden

"Matt Burton had to be exposed with how the [Maloney] thing went down but the Sharks have strike players and we didn't want Stephen looked at."

Penrith's victory over the Sharks was their first since 2016 after three narrow losses in the past four games played against them. 

"We started to panic a bit. The Sharks threw everything at us and have so many strike players. It was hard for us, the clock was certainly moving slowly," Cleary said of the final 15 minutes.

"We found something and showed a bit of character."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners