The Panthers Story
The Panthers Story
After tireless campaigning from club stalwarts Merv Cartwright and Roger Cowan, Penrith Panthers was selected to enter the NSWRFL premiership in 1966 and participated in the club's inaugural season the following year.
Under the guidance of head coach Leo Trevena, the Panthers' maiden season ended with five wins to finish 11th in the twelve-team competition.
The Panthers established themselves as a tough and committed outfit during their infant years, blending the brightest young talents from rural areas with experienced first graders. However they found success difficult to come by until their first finals campaign in 1985.
Despite being humbled by Parramatta in their maiden finals appearance, it would spark an upturn in the club's fortunes and lead to more success in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A top-half finish in 1988 and a semi-finals appearance in 1989 would lay the foundation for the Panthers to make their first grand final appearance in 1990.
Under the guidance of coach Phil Gould, the Panthers faced a star-studded Canberra Raiders outfit. The Raiders recovered from defeats in the 1987 and 1989 grand finals to triumph over the Panthers 18-14.
Fast forward a year later and the Panthers would meet the Raiders once again for a shot at glory. This time the Panthers would be the ones celebrating at full-time. Hooker Royce Simmons scored two tries and steered his side to a 19-12 victory.
The Panthers would slip back to the pack over the next decade with finals appearances few and far between, until they shocked the competition by claiming the minor premiership in 2003.
Their joy would continue through the finals as they advanced to a grand final showdown against Sydney Roosters.
A tightly-contested encounter at Stadium Australia eventually finished 18-6 to the Panthers, who celebrated their second premiership title. The inspired performance of hooker Luke Priddis saw him win the Clive Churchill Medal.
Team of Legends
In 2006 Panthers celebrated the club's 40th season by selecting the inaugural Team of Legends.
The team - arguably the best 17 players to wear the Panthers jersey - was selected by a committee of local experts and rugby league pundits.
1. Rhys Wesser
2. Bob Landers
3. Grahame Moran
4. Ryan Girdler
5. Alan McIndoe
6. Brad Fittler
7. Greg Alexander
8. Terry Geary
9. Royce Simmons
10. Tim Sheens
11. John Cartwright
12. Bill Ashurst
13. Colin Van Der Voort
14. Craig Gower
15. Brad Izzard
16. Mark Geyer
17. Tony Puletua
Panthers Hall of Fame
A decade later, in 2016, Panthers celebrated the club's historic 50th season by announcing the first four inductees into the club's Hall of Fame - Grahame Moran, Royce Simmons, Greg Alexander and Craig Gower.
An exciting centre that was quick and skillful, Moran was part of the inaugural Panthers side that entered the competition in 1967 and went to become to the first Panthers player to make 100 appearances for the club.
Moran was also the first interstate representative player at the club when he represented New South Wales in 1970. He finished his Panthers career with 122 games, scoring 25 tries.
A combative hooker with a touch of class, Simmons quickly endeared himself to the Panthers faithful with his no-nonsense approach to the game and inspirational performances. He debuted for the club in 1980 and went on to become a vital part of their first premiership success in 1991.
Simmons ended his playing career with 237 games for the Panthers, ten games for New South Wales and ten Tests for Australia. He was the first Panther to represent the Kangaroos.
He would later return to the club as head coach between 1994-2001, ultimately serving the Panthers in over 400 games as player and coach.
A local junior that would go on to become a captain and legend of the team he always supported, 'Brandy' quickly established himself as a premier halfback in the competition after debuting in 1984. He was named as the Dally M Player of the Year in 1985 and Dally M Halfback of the Year in 1985, 1989 and 1991.
His greatest achievement came in 1991 when he captained the Panthers to their first ever premiership title, kicking a field goal that gave his side a 13-12 lead on their way to a seven-point victory.
Brandy's career with the Panthers spanned fourteen seasons across two stints, going on to make 228 appearances. He was the first person to score 100 tries and 1000 points for the club. His other achievements included six games for New South Wales and another six Tests for Australia.
Another local product that would go on to captain his side to premiership success, Gower was part of one of the greatest fairytale moments in the NRL when the Panthers ended the 2003 season as minor premiers. They would eventually go on to stun Sydney Roosters 18-6 in the grand final to seal the club's second premiership.
Gower was named Dally M Hooker of the Year in 2000 and RLPA Player's Player in 2003. He ran out for the Panthers on 238 occassions, scoring 55 tries. He represented New South Wales on six occassions, as well as playing for Australia 18 times and captained his country during the 2005 Tri Nations.