SuperCoach NRL study guide: Panthers
Penrith's 2018 NRL campaign seemed clunky and stop-start from the opening whistle. Down 14-6 against their local derby rival Parramatta at half time in Round 1, the Panthers came from behind to win 24-14.
Slow starts cost Penrith last year, with the team behind on the scoreboard at half time in 12 of 24 of their premiership matches. Considering they were missing star players Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Josh Mansour and Waqa Blake for big chunks of the season, Penrith did well to bounce back to claim fifth spot.
Ivan Cleary is back to take the reins at the foot of the mountains. It will be interesting to see if he makes any changes on the first team list Tuesday.
From a SuperCoach perspective, Penrith finished ninth overall in all points scored with a team season tally of 18,034 points. Viliame Kikau was the team leader with 1402 points.
Read on to find out which Penrith players you need to gain an edge in SuperCoach in 2019.
PREDICTED ROUND 1 TEAM
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene-Zeleniak 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Sione Katoa 10. James Tamou 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan 15. Tyrell Fuimaono 16. Jack Hetherington 17. Moses Leota.
Who's left: Tim Grant, Caleb Aekins, Tyrone May, Kaide Ellis, Jarome Luai, Jed Cartwright, Liam Knight, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Nick Lui-Toso, Paea Pua, Tyrone Phillips, Hame Sele
Ins: Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Tim Grant, Tyrell Fuimaono, Hame Sele
Outs: Tyrone Peachey (Titans), Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Christian Crichton (Bulldogs), Trent Merrin (Leeds), Maiko Sivo (Eels), Adam Keighran (Warriors), Corey Waddell (Sea Eagles), Peter Wallace (Retired), Tim Browne (Retired)
Nathan Cleary ($577,000)
2018 average 61.7
It's been quite a rapid rise for Cleary. 52 premiership matches, six finals games and a winning debut in his maiden Origin series. Not bad for a 21-year old-in three seasons. Cleary hit the ground running over the first two weeks of last season with scores of 83 and 76. An injury in Round 3 kept him out until Round 11, but he completed the season strong and finished with a 61.7 average. Cleary is a goal-kicking half with a career strike rate of 84 per cent. In his first two seasons he averaged 66PPG and 70PPG, and I think he can push up around the late 60PPG average again.
Viliame Kikau ($570,400 2RF)
2018 average 61
Kikau was one of the breakout stars from season 2018. Going from an average of 22MPG in 2017, up to 69MPG last year, Kikau finished with a season tally of 1402 points for a 61PPG average. Playing on the left edge, he was a colossus as he terrorised opposition defenders. Kikau gets his first chance to play under coach Cleary, after signing with the Panthers, where Cleary was last in charge in 2015. A noted try scoring forward from his NYC days at the Cowboys, I wouldn't be surprised if he crossed for more than the five tries he scored last year. Powerhouse.
Waqa Blake ($550,100 CTW)
2018 average 58.8
Blake had a break out last half of the year after coming back from injury in Round 17. He finished the last nine games with eight tries and an average of 68PPG. 2018 was a career best year for Blake from a SuperCoach stat line point of view. With a 42-point average in 2017, he jumped a massive extra 16 points to score 58 last season. Starting this year as the fourth highest priced centre/wing, it will be interesting how many give Blake a chance to back up his golden run from last year.
Kaide Ellis ($196,900 2RF)
The Penrith nursery has given us a nice run of cheapies over the last few seasons. Nathan Cleary, James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira-Naera and Jarome Luai are just some of the names that started at bottom dollar and made quick money.
This year there doesn't appear to be a standout cheapie for the start of the year, so Kaide Ellis at just above bottom dollar could be your man. Ellis has only played seven games so far and averaged just 18 minutes of game time. With such little action on the field, he only has a 15PPG average with a PPM of 0.83. Ellis looks to be just an injury or two away from hopefully being a downgrade trade in option later in the season.
NO GO ZONE
Dylan Edwards ($473,700 FLB)
2018 average 50.6
I do like Edwards as a NRL SuperCoach draft prospect, but not for Classic. With big names Tedesco, Trobjevic, Ponga, Munster and RTS all available at fullback, there should be no one starting with Edwards. After posting a 58PPG average in 2017, his 2018 season finished prematurely at the end of Round 8 after he underwent a shoulder reconstruction. Edwards also has pre-season pressure for his position from current New Zealand fullback Dallin Watene-Zeleniak.
Dean Whare ($344,100 CTW)
2018 average 36.8
Whare had a 50PPG average in 2015, but it's been heading south ever since. The former New Zealand International hasn't had a triple figure score since 2014. His best game since was a 95-point effort in Round 2 of 2017. With a PPM of under 0.50, it's the easiest recommendation I'll ever make.