Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders

Picture: Mark Evans/
Kevin Kingston will lead the Panthers in 2013. Picture: Mark Evans/
Last 5 Meetings

Round 23 2012 – Canberra Raiders 20 d Penrith Panthers 10 at Panthers Stadium
Round 25 2011 – Penrith Panthers 19 d Canberra Raiders 18 at Canberra Stadium
Round 5 2011 – Penrith Panthers 36 d Canberra Raiders 10 at Panthers Stadium
Qualifying Final 2010 – Canberra Raiders 24 d Penrith Panthers 22 at Panthers Stadium
Round 22 2010 – Canberra Raiders 30 d Penrith Panthers 26 at Canberra Stadium

The Penrith Panthers  enter a new era when they host the Canberra Raiders  on Sunday afternoon, kicking off the 2013 season without former stalwarts Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon. That trio played a key role in the sides surge to second on the ladder in 2010, but the club has failed to make the finals since and a new generation of stars has been ushered in. Lewis Brown, Dean Whare, Wes Naiqama and James Segeyaro will all make their debuts for the club, which will be captained by experienced hooker Kevin Kingston. Although it won just four of its last twelve NRL matches in 2012, Penrith takes strong form into the new season having scored two wins and a draw from three trial matches.

The Raiders squad is much more settled than their opponents with no major changes in personnel at the club during the offseason but they start the new campaign without a host of their stars. Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Glen Buttriss and Terry Campese all played a big role in Canberra’s charge into the top eight at the end of last year but none have been named to play this weekend.

1st Tryscorer – Dean Whare  never really got a chance to shine for the Sea Eagles, where he had the likes of Jamie Lyon and Brett Stewart ahead of him in the pecking order. Given the opportunity to play fullback by coach Ivan Cleary for the Panthers, Whare will have much more room to move then he did at Manly and the move west could be the making of him as a first grader.

Even without Josh Dugan and Jarrod Croker the Raiders still have plenty of firepower in the backline and there is no one more dangerous than Reece Robinson . He was the clubs joint top tryscorer last season and got a hat-trick against for the Indigenous All Stars last month.

Prediction – Only Parramatta finished below Penrith last season but there is a sense of optimism that the club could be on the rise again with it's off field dramas now in the past. The Raiders will be hurt by the absence of key players, with the Panthers getting the new season off to a good start. Penrith Panthers 1-12

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