Another Year Of Failure At The Base Of The Mountains

Well 2008 turned out to be another stinker for the Penrith Panthers.

The season started off with a flogging by the Brisbane Broncos and never looked to get any better. Some pointed to an improvement on last years Wooden Spoon season, but the fact is that if the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Cowboys hadn’t fallen in such a heap this season, Penrith would have won the Wooden Spoon with ease.

This year saw the players reject the training and coaching methods of Matthew Elliott, and also go into a full of revolt against serial trouble maker and Elliott’s mate Matt Adamson.

On no less than three occasions this season New Zealand forward Frank Pritchard asked for a release, while at the same time the club encouraged Luke Lewis and Nathan Smith to back out of deals to head to other clubs and stay at Penrith.

2008 saw Petero Civoniceva join the Panthers and he was undoubtedly the buy of the year. On the field, he was the clubs best, week in week out. Off the field he was a solid leader in a very tough position, and on more than one occasion you got the feeling that he knew the way the club was being run was a shambles but he bit his tongue.

Leadership was not well valued at Penrith in 2008 with Premiership winning hooker and 2003 Clive Churchill medal winner Luke Priddis shown the door. He never saw eye to eye with Matthew Elliott or his band of losers, and as someone that has achieved so much in his career, Priddis had every right to voice his concerns.

He joins Rhys Wesser, Tony Puletua and Luke Rooney who all leave the club after this season.

because these four all made such a big contribution to the club, I thought I’d talk a bit more About them individually:

Rhys Wesser
When Rhys Wesser made the step up to first grade he was basically taking over from one of the worst fullbacks the club has ever had in Peter Jorgensen. Wesser was brilliant straight away, but he had a mistake in him and looked like he might have an injury prone career.

He settled into first grade well though and provided deadly attack from the back for Penrith and must rank as one of the clubs most consistent performers over a career.

He went on to play for Queensland at State Of origin level and was a shade off of playing for Australia, but he never missed a beat when coming back to play for Penrith.

Tony Puletua
Unbelievably, he played in the centers in schoolboy football, but he made an NRL career as a back rower. When Puletua was on, he was devastating. He was unstoppable up the middle of the field and had a great fend.

The problem was he was terrible inconsistent and would often go missing for games at a time. He formed a great back row partnership with Joe Galavao that led Penrith to the 2003 Premiership win but from that point on his game fell away.

Luke Rooney
I remember when Luke Rooney made his first grade debut and he looked the goods from the begging. He was great under the high ball and was a good finisher, even if his running style was less than graceful.

My cousin once told me he met Rooney before he’d made his grade debut, and even then Rooney was great with the fans, buying my cousin something to eat at the stalls at the ground and having a good chat about the Panthers side. That always stuck with me and it was great to see him go on to achieve so much playing for the club, winning a Premiership, playing Origin and even Test football.

Luke Priddis
Luke Priddis’ addition to the club made Penrith a Premiership winner. He was just what the club needed.

He had Premiership winning experience, but was still young at the time he joined the club. He was a very hard worker and a leader. He really helped Penrith’s defense so much and his smart work around dummy half really focused the sides attack.

He was our best player in the 2003 Grand Final and while at Penrith he went on to play for New South Wales and Australia.

He deserved to retire at Penrith but became a victim of his own success under Matthew Elliotts losing style.

Over all these four players contributed a great deal to Penriths success in 2003-2004 and that should be remembered by fans for a long time.

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