I always find it funny when you hear people whinging that “The salary cap isn’t working” as we watch one of the closest seasons in Australian Rugby League history.
You can turn into the NRL on any weekend and honestly feel that most teams have a chance to win their match no matter who their opponent is. Sure, there are a few exceptions, with the Wests Tigers being and absolute basket case and the Penrith Panthers starting to get on a bit of a roll right now, but most team still have the ability to step up and defeat just about any opponent when they put on a good performance.
This all got me thinking however….if the salary cap doesn’t work because the Penrith Panthers have been to three straight Grand Finals, winning two of them, and they still lead the competition in 2023, how would a team made up of the players they have to move on due to salary cap constraints go in the NRL this year?
Now, a few things with this side. If the Panthers lost a player, and that player has since retired, I didn’t list them. That means no Josh Mansour. I also didn’t list players who were Panthers juniors that left the club and made their first grade debut elsewhere. So no Shawn Blore.
I tried to make this as fair as possible. If a player made a real contribution to the Penrith Panthers first grade team over the last few years and then left to be a true contributor to another club, I listed them. I also added in a couple of players the Panthers will be losing at season end.
So, how would this team go in the NRL this year based upon what you have seen?
- Daine Laurie
- Charlie Staines
- Stephen Crichton
- Brent Naden
- Robert Jennings
- Matt Burton
- Sean O’Sullivan
- Jack Hetherington
- Api Koroisau
- Spencer Leniu
- Villiame Kikau
- J’maine Hopgood
- Kurt Capewell
- Paul Momirovski
- James Tamou
- Jaemane Salmon
- Jack Cogger
- Tyrone May
It’s not a bad side! The forward pack in particular is pretty handy. Would they make the finals? I think they’d at the very least give it a good shake!
The backline has some very handy players in it, I really like the halves, the forward pack is well balanced and has some real firepower in there, and the extended bench isn’t too bad either.
This is just a list I did off the top of my head too. This doesn’t include all the Panthers juniors that have gone to other clubs to get an opportunity, which is great for the game and what you want to see happen.
Now, I didn’t put this list together to prove a point or anything, I just thought it was an interesting exercise. I guess it does show that the Panthers have had to lose quite a bit of talent over the last few years because of the salary cap, but I think importantly it shows that they have really kept the key players they needed going forward, and then relied on that incredible junior base of theirs to cover some of the losses above.