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There's no bigger first-up test for a young Panthers side than back-to-back premiers the Roosters.

The Tricolours tuned up for the season with a World Club Challenge victory against St Helens in September, keeping the wheels rolling despite the departures of Latrell Mitchell and Cooper Cronk.

Penrith have lost some experience in chief playmaker James Maloney but a few exciting recruits and emerging talent has them confident they can return to the finals.

The Rundown

Team news

Panthers: James Fisher-Harris (pec) comes into the starting side with Viliame Kikau dropping back to the bench. Billy Burns and Matt Burton are the final cuts from the match-day squad. Caleb Aekins is the new fullback in the absence of Dylan Edwards (ankle). Second-row recruit Kurt Capewell (quad) is still missing. Api Koroisau returns at hooker after a stint at Manly, while Zane Tetevano takes on his premiership-winning teammates. Jed Cartwright and Kaide Ellis were omitted from the extended squad on Friday night.

Roosters: Angus Crichton is a late withdrawal with a chest infection. Brett Morris shifts in to take Crichton's place in the centres and Matt Ikuvalu comes on to the wing. Poasa Faamausili is the other match-day omission. Lachlan Lam and Asu Kepaoa were cut from the 21-man squad on Friday. Co-captain Boyd Cordner was rested from the World Club Challenge and has been given another week off by coach Trent Robinson.  Sitili Tupouniua gets a crack in the starting side in the second row after coming off the bench 15 times in 2019 and starting only once. 

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Caleb Aekins
    Fullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh Mansour
    Winger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean Whare
    Centre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Brent Naden
    Centre for Roosters is number 5 Brett Morris
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Roosters is number 18 Matt Ikuvalu
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Luke Keary
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Kyle Flanagan

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
    Prop for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Roosters is number 9 Jake Friend
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 Zane Tetevano
    Prop for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Sitili Tupouniua
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 15 James Fisher-Harris
    2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Mitchell Aubusson
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Roosters is number 13 Victor Radley

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    Interchange for Roosters is number 14 Sam Verrills
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Stephen Crichton
    Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Isaac Liu
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
    Interchange for Roosters is number 16 Nat Butcher
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Jack Hetherington
    Interchange for Roosters is number 17 Lindsay Collins

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Referee: Chris Butler
  • Touch Judge: Jeff Younis
  • Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
  • Video Referee: Ben Lowe
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

James Tamou v Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Neither will take a backward step as they look to gain superiority up front and lay the foundations for a first-up win. JWH has established himself as one of the game's pre-eminent props while Tamou will be out to rediscover the damaging form that had him in NSW and Australian jerseys in 2016.

For the Panthers to win

With Maloney gone, now is Nathan Cleary's time to step up. The halfback's fingerprints will be all over the game if the scoreboard reads in Penrith's favour after 80 minutes. The Panthers are giving away some experience but their young guns can do the job if they don't get overawed.

For the Roosters to win

For all the glitz and glamour in attack, everything the Roosters have achieved is based on their defence. Their watertight wall was on show again in the World Club Challenge. Joey Manu looms as the premiers' major offensive weapon after Mitchell's move to South Sydney.

Brett Kimmorley says

Coming off a solid World Club Challenge victory, I expect the Roosters to win first up. Kyle Flanagan is a quality player – he'll learn under the retired Cooper Cronk and play a similar style – while Luke Keary and James Tedesco finished last year on fire. Api Koroisau is an amazing buy for Penrith, but I think the Roosters will have too much mental toughness. Roosters by 8.

Stat Attack

Roosters superstar James Tedesco led the NRL in tackle breaks (166) and run metres (4,920) last year, but he also had more handling errors (37) than anyone. Luke Keary was first in line break assists (20) and second in try assists (22).

And another thing ...

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary scored 722 points in 81 games for the Roosters in the late 1990s, finishing the 1998 season as the NRL's leading point-scorer after scoring 13 tries and kicking 116 goals.