Squad Breakdown: Penrith Panthers 2023 Supercoach analysis

2020 NRL Supercoach runner-up Tim Williams takes a deep dive into the credentials of the Penrith Panthers for Round 1.


1. Dylan Edwards
2. Brian To’o
3. Stephen Crichton
4. Izack Tago
5. Sunia Turuva (Taylan May)
6. Jarome Luai
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Moses Leota
9. Mitch Kenny
10. James Fisher-Harris
11. Liam Martin
12. Luke Garner
13. Isaah Yeo

14. Soni Luke
15. Spencer Leniu
16. Scott Sorensen
17. Matt Eisenhuth

Squad changes, via NRL.com

2023 gains

Luke Garner (Wests Tigers), Tyrone Peachey (Wests Tigers), Zac Hosking (Broncos), Jack Cogger (Huddersfield).

2023 losses

Apisai Koroisau (Wests Tigers), Viliame Kikau (Bulldogs), Isaiya Katoa (Dolphins), Robert Jennings (Dolphins), J’maine Hopgood (Eels), Sean O’Sullivan (Dolphins), Charlie Staines (Wests Tigers), Christian Crichton (unsigned).

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Draw: First 10 rounds

Broncos (H), Rabbitohs (H), bye, Eels (A), Raiders (A), Sea Eagles (H), Knights (A), Rabbitohs (A), Tigers (regional), Warriors (A)

First five round strength of schedule rating (1 toughest, 10 easiest)


Team news

The defending premiers pretty well pick themselves despite some change in personnel.

Luke Garner is likely to get first crack on the left edge vacated by Viliame Kikau, with former Bronco Zac Hosking to miss out.

Taylan May will miss the first two rounds due to suspension, with Fijian flyer Sunia Turuva to deputise in the meantime.

Mitch Kenny and Soni Luke are likely to share the hooking role vacated by Api Koroisau.

I’d expect Kenny to play the first 25-30 minutes, with Luke injected off the bench.

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Nathan Cleary ($841,000)

It’d take a brave Supercoach to start without Cleary.

In his past three seasons he has averages of 80, 108 and 83 points per game.

Last season he played 14 games, with that average impacted slightly by the infamous send off game against the Eels where he scored 4 points in 18 minutes.

I think he’s a set-and-forget for the season, and on any given week where you’re struggling to lock in a skipper option you just plug Cleary.

He had top scores of 151 and 158 last season, so if you gamble on starting without him you’re at serious risk of getting left behind early.

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Brian To’o ($624,300)

Bizza is one of my first picked this season, at what I believe to be a genuine discount rate off the back of a 59 point average in 2022.

Some will point out that his 84 point average in 2021, the season of record breaking NRL score lines and Supercoach scoring, was an anomaly amongst three seasons of averaging around 59.

While I don’t expect the 84 point average, he’s a Supercoach gift, with a base of 36 per game last season, he busts tackles, has a high workrate every game without fault, and is on the end of one of the best backlines in the NRL.

With Kikau gone from the left edge, I’m hoping Cleary gets more ball on the right which should benefit To’o.

Stephen Crichton also developed his ball-playing on the right edge last season too.

He may start on the left edge with May out, which would be an even bigger bonus.

Izack Tago ($627,700)

Tago has interested some, namely my old mate the Rugby League Guru, but I’m not overly convinced.

Guru is backing his undeniable talent to shine in the absence of Kikau, who ran the sweep line outside Tago who would run the decoy lead almost every play.

In theory, Garner will run a hard line, giving space out wide for Tago to do his damage. I can get around this idea for sure, however he’s priced on a fairly strong 60 point average, on an edge with new combinations to forge.

He based 34 per game last season which is very impressive, but he’s probably not for me until their draw softens up.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see myself flocking to get him early on, but I’m happy enough not to start with him.

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Luke Garner ($435,100)

I’m so excited to see what Garner can do in a gun team.

He’s one of the better line-runners in the NRL, and will be playing off lightening quick ruck speed, and Jarome Luai.

He’s priced on a 41 point average in 66 minutes at the Tigers last season.

I think he’ll bag a stack of tries in 2023, and provided he locks down an 80 minute role I think he can average 60+ before being upgraded to a back-row keeper.

Look back to 2020 and 2019 where he averaged a very promising 56 and 58 for the Tigers, in 72 and 62 minutes respectively.

Imagine what he can do in max time for the Panthers?

Barring any team changes, he’s locked into my round 1 side.

James Fisher-Harris ($568,200)

I’ve seen some chat around JFH as that mid-range front-row option to start the year, but I’m not overly keen.

He has very little upside, evidenced by three scores in 20 games over 65 last season (87, 74, 92).

Not every front-rower has to have upside, especially if around the mid-price tier, but it’s something I like to have.

He averaged 54 points in 51 minutes last season which I think may be slightly below what he can produce in 2023, but I’m not sure he’ll do much more.

Rock solid, but I prefer others.

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Mitch Kenny ($310,200) and Soni Luke ($234,800)

I don’t feel as though there are any genuine cheapie options at Penrith as it stands, despite plenty of teams running with Mitch Kenny or Soni Luke in the hope of big minutes.

I’d expect Kenny to play the first 25-30 minutes, with Luke injected off the bench.

Luke may play 50-55 minutes straight in a best case scenario, with Kenny spending some time in the back-row rotation.

This would make Luke a borderline cheapie, but with the likes of Tanah Boyd and Brandon Smith really not that further north in price, I can’t make a case for him.

If either of the hookers goes down injured during the pre-season and the other gets an extended role at nine, we can reassess the credentials which would change significantly.

Sunia Turuva ($275,000)

The Fijian speedster will play the first two rounds on the wing while Taylan May serves a suspension.

Unless there’s a pre-season injury, it’s probably not worth starting with him.

While it could pay off, I’m happy to trade him in for his third game whenever that may be if he looks set for an extended stint in the team.

4 Responses to “Squad Breakdown: Penrith Panthers 2023 Supercoach analysis”

  1. bremanila

    Hi Tim. One query re Podcasts. I subscribe and want the NRL and BBL podcasts as I already do – but not the AFL podcast. Is there anyway you can differentiate the three – as you did on Twitter? Not a huge issue I must add. Cheers – Brian.

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