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Aside from an unhappy first half of the grand final, pretty much everything went right for the Panthers in 2020.

But that golden season will count for little when the Cowboys visit Panthers Stadium on Saturday night as teams coached by Ivan Cleary and Todd Payten start the new season on level footing as far as the ladder is concerned.

Payten's players have spoken of transitioning to an up-tempo style of play over the summer and on Saturday we will get a first proper glimpse of that.

As for the Panthers, Cleary will want to see the selfless style of play and willingness to do the little things that were hallmarks of 2020 remain evident.

Panthers v Cowboys

The rundown

Team news

Panthers: The Panthers will line up 1-17 with Robert Jennings and Mitch Kenny omitted an hour before kick-off.

Moses Leota can't be expected to fill in for the experience left by James Tamou, but he'll need to replicate his consistent level of performance when he steps out as James Fisher-Harris's front-row partner. Bench forward Spencer Leniu will also be expected to help fill that void. The Panthers' bench is a work in progress with Scott Sorensen still sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Paul Momirovski won the race to be Stephen Crichton's centre partner ahead of Tyrone May, who claimed a bench spot, with Brent Naden not being considered for selection in the first four rounds after his positive cocaine test in grand final week. J'Maine Hopgood and Matt Burton were the two players left out 24 hours before kick-off.

Penrith are aiming for their 10th consecutive win at Panthers Stadium.

Cowboys: No late changes for the Cowboys. Scott Drinkwater has won the battle for the No.1 jersey with Valentine Holmes named on the wing. Veteran forward Josh McGuire will be eased back from a hamstring injury on the bench with Francis Molo partnering Jordan McLean in the front row.

Hookers Jake Granville and Reuben Cotter (jersey 19), who can also play in the back row, have both been named on the bench. Coach Todd Payten has confirmed that Cotter will play as a lock. Flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has a chance to strut his stuff in the centres.

Tom Gilbert was unavailable for selection after suffering a leg fracture during a training ground mishap. 

Shane Wright and Murray Taulagi were dropped on the eve of the match and Ben Hampton and Lachlan Burr were cut an hour before kick-off..

The Cowboys have not won at Penrith since 2016.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
    Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott Drinkwater
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Charlie Staines
    Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul Momirovski
    Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Esan Marsters
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen Crichton
    Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
    Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Valentine Holmes
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Michael Morgan
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake Clifford

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
    Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Francis Molo
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece Robson
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
    Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLean
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Mitchell Dunn
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Tyrone May
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Jake Granville
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer Leniu
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Josh McGuire
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Matthew Eisenhuth
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Corey Jensen
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Liam Martin
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 19 Reuben Cotter

Match Officials

  • Referee: Matt Cecchin
  • Touch Judge: Todd Smith
  • Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
  • Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall

Last updated:

Key match-up

Jarome Luai v Michael Morgan: Luai proved himself one of the game's best five-eighths with an impressive 2020 campaign. He is a constant threat with ball in hand. Morgan hasn't found the going easy since his 2015 grand final heroics but he remains a class player and a man his team-mates look to for leadership.

Stat attack

Including the finals, Penrith won 20 matches last year. The Cowboys have won 22 games in the past three years. A new season does bring with it new hope, but Penrith will rightly start as warm favourites.

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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