The Panthers forked out big money to get Ivan Cleary back to the club.
The Panthers forked out big money to get Ivan Cleary back to the club.

NRL club’s $3 million mistake

Penrith's sorry NRL season will come to an end on Sunday against Newcastle after just 10 wins from 23 games.

Among the top-four favourites at the start of the year, the Panthers have endured a year that has included the lewd-video scandal and Phil Gould's departure as football boss.

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Even before that, it was a turbulent pre-season with coach Ivan Cleary returning to the club following Anthony Griffin's sacking weeks out from the 2018 finals.

"They've underachieved this season," Fox League reporter James Hooper told NRL 360.

"They have torched $3 million to change coaches and go from finishing fifth last season to be sitting in 11th presently.

"If you add up the payouts to Anthony Griffin, Gus Gould, getting Ivan Cleary back to the club, chipping in for Michael Maguire to go to the Wests Tigers, it's not value for money."

NRL 360 host Paul Kent added: "The one thing about Penrith is they're continually planning for years beyond this season.

"At some point, they've got to sit down and they've got to commit to winning in the season they're playing.

"There's no point in saying we're building a roster to win in two years time."

 

The Panthers will miss the finals in 2019.
The Panthers will miss the finals in 2019.

Indeed the turnover hasn't been just limited to coaches, with 20 new faces in the NRL team in two years. It's a big reason behind their first failure to make the finals since 2015, according to James Maloney.

Maloney conceded the team had "under-performed" and said it was changes on the field that had impacted the team far more in coach Cleary's first year back as coach.

"Over a two-year period that's probably a little more (new faces) than you'd ideally like," Maloney said.

"While it's not an excuse being young to being inconsistent, sometimes it just takes a bit of time to see the consistency needed week in week out.

"A lot of people have asked about the incident at the beginning of the season and things like that (being responsible for the season).

"That's hard to gauge individually how people handle that mentally. Just overall we've been too inconsistent."

Battling to manage their salary cap, Penrith's biggest problem has been their failure to replace the likes of Tyrone Peachey, Trent Merrin and Corey Harawira-Naera at the end of last year.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Waqa Blake were also high-profile departures mid-season, while Tyrone May hasn't played a game as he faces charges.

Penrith also haven't enjoyed success with their fringe players, with none of their five 2019 recruits finishing the year in first grade.

It's prompted 20 players to pull on a Penrith NRL jersey for the first time in the past two years with 15 of those debutants - nine this year alone.

Maloney will add to the list of exits at the end of the season as he heads to English Super League club Catalans with one year still on his Penrith contract.

In turn, the Panthers have only made one signing in Manly hooker Apisai Koroisau.

"Hopefully with them all being a really young roster they can spend a bit of time together now and the next crop can be drip fed through in a little more timely manner," Maloney said.

"It's a learning curve with a lot of young players, just the need for consistency week in week out.

"Our season has mirrored that. It's disappointing but that's on us.

"When you look at our side we have definitely underperformed to what we should have."