MATCH PREVIEW – Panthers NSW CUP v Knights

Round 1, 2014 NSW Cup

Saturday 8th March

Kickoff: 2.10pm

Venue: Sportingbet Stadium, Penrith

LAST TIME THEY MET – Panthers beat Newcastle 36-32 in a 2013 Prelim final.

TEAMS

PANTHERS: 1.Dallin WATENE-ZELEZNIAK, 2.Kevin NAIQAMA, 3.Isaah YEO, 4.Tom EISENHUTH, 5.Eddie AIONO, 6.Will SMITH, 7.Isaac JOHN, 8.Sam ANDERSON, 9.Kierran MOSELEY, 10.Shaun SPENCE, 11.Matt ROBINSON, 12.Nathan SMITH, 13.Ryan SIMPKINS. INTERCHANGE: 14. Reagan CAMPBELL-GILLARD, 15. Daniel FOSTER, 16. Leilani LATU, 17. Michael ROSS, 18. Liam AYOUB, 19. Sakeo DIBECI

KNIGHTS: 1. Honeti Tuhu, 2. Josh Mantellato, 3. Brayden Wiliame , 4. Pat Mata'utia , 5. Chanel Mata'utia, 6. Tyler Randell, 7. Matt Minto, 30. Toka Likiliki, 9. Chad Redman, 10. Pat Vaivai, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Jeremy Siulepa, 13. Matt Hilder. Interchange: 14. James Elias, 15. Brenton Horwood, 16. Ben Tupou, 27. Reggie Saunders 

This weekend marks a major milestone for the Panthers. For the first time in 7 years, we will field a reserve grade side under our banner, after taking over the former Windsor Wolves team.

You’ll notice a few big names in our side including Isaac John, Kevin Naiqama, Sam Anderson, Matt Robinson and Ryan Simpkins, who all have first grade experience and will help guide a handful of Under 20’s players who have graduated up a grade this season.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is one of those whiz kids, who is still eligible to play in the NYC but has been a stand out at training in the off-season, and will take on a challenge of fullback this Saturday. He is very quick on his feet and has learned a lot from working alongside his senior team mates, and we’re excited to see him on the field!

Naiqama and Eddia Aiono will be very quick out wide on the wings and they’ll be backed up by some solid workers in the centre. New recruit Shaun Spence and Sam Anderson will be our enforcers in attack, and they’re looking bigger and better than ever. Former Under 20’s star Kierran Moseley will play hooker, and will be backed up by three very experienced players in Robinson, Simpkins and captain Nathan Smith.

Isaac John will be the key ingredient in this mix, having held onto the Panthers five-eighth spot for the second half of 2013. He’s proved himself as steady and reliable and is very quick on his feet, and paired up with dynamite Will Smith, this combo could be unstoppable.

The Knights had a good run against us last year and had us beaten twice in season games, before falling at the final hurdle in the prelim final. They have a fairly new squad, but their forward pack is as strong as ever and if they come out firing they will put up a real fight.

Attack will be the key for both teams on Saturday. It will be line breaks and speed up the wings that will win it, but that must start with a strong push from the forward packs to get some momentum going. Both sides are fairly evenly matched, so whoever gains the upper hand first will come away with the points.