13 matches [2002-2003]
20 points [5 tries]
Queensland born centre who debuted at Cronulla in 1994 and later moved to North Queensland in 1999 before being one of a host of new faces that arrived at the Panthers for the 2002 season, having played 111 first grade matches across seven seasons at his previous two clubs.
His NRL debut for Penrith was in Round 5, starting in the centres and playing 11 matches in 2002, crossing for 5 tries.
In 2003, he was limited to just 2 appearances within the first month of the season, playing the majority of the season for the St. Mary’s-Penrith Cougars in the Premier League. His final appearance was in their grand final loss to Canberra before retiring.
31 matches [1999-2001]
32 points [8 tries]
St. Clair junior who made his first grade debut for the Panthers against Newcastle at Penrith Stadium in 1999 coming off the bench. His third match against Brisbane would be his first starting appearance, on the wing.
Whilst only crossing for two tries in his 10 appearances in his debut NRL season, he quickly established himself as one of the fastest players in the competition, and the majority of these appearances were as a replacement back off the bench.
In 2000, he would make 7 appearances throughout the season with the majority of the appearances in the centres.
After 14 appearances in 2001, he left the Panthers and signed with the Sharks and later joined the Wests Tigers in 2005 although he was not part of their grand final winning squad and left the NRL at the end of the season, joining the Dapto Canaries in the Illawarra competition, where he played out his career.
Sunday 7th September at Sportingbet Stadium
Penrith 22 – Tries: Watene-Zelezniak (2), Moylan (1), Segeyaro (1); Goals: Soward (3) | New Zealand Warriors 6
The Panthers opened the scoring when James Segeyaro burrowed over from dummy half, which was set up earlier in the tackle count from a Matt Moylan line break from a quick tap.
The lead was extended to 10-0 after 16 minutes when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak landed in the right corner.
In the shadows of half time, Moylan dummied close to the line and sliced through for Penrith’s third try, with Jamie Soward’s sideline conversion giving them a 16-0 lead at the break.
A Warriors try within the first 2 minutes of the resumption of play reduced the Panthers lead to 10.
The home team would however keep the visitors at bay, firstly edging further ahead in the 63rd minute with a penalty conversion and then icing the contest with six minutes remaining when Watene-Zelezniak scored his second when he was the first to arrive to a Moylan grubber kick to the in-goal.
More importantly the win secured an all-important top four spot in the upcoming finals series.
Saturday 15th August at Pepper Stadium
Penrith 24 – Tries: Brown, Campbell-Gillard (1), Peachey (1), Simmons (1); Goals: Soward (4) | New Zealand Warriors 10
A converted try to Lewis Brown gave Penrith a 6-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes, and the lead was soon doubled with a converted try to Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
In the 27th minute it became 14-0 with a penalty conversion kicked by Jamie Soward, before two quick fire tries to the visitors reduced the Panthers lead to only 4.
However with just over a minute remaining in the half, a converted try to Tyrone Peachey meant that the home team held a 20-10 lead at the break.
An unconverted try to David Simmons warded through the video referee further extended the Panthers lead to 24-10 in the 48th minute, but would remain as the only points scored in the half as the home team recorded a comfortable 14 point victory.
22 matches: 10 wins, 13 losses
Top point scorer: Graham Mackay – 104 [15 tries, 24 goals]
Top try scorer: Graham Mackay – 15
Player of the year: Carl Macnamara
In the pre-season, the Panthers had a modest result in the World Sevens being a semi finalist in the trophy division of the tournament whilst later in the pre-season Toohey’s Challenge did not proceed past the preliminary rounds.
The premiership season started with a draw at home versus the Gold Coast, but soon were able to quickly erase the disappointment of the 1993 by sitting second by the end of March, which included an all too rare victory at Kogarah Oval versus St. George.
At the midway point they were clinging on to a spot in the top 5 but a string of losses would see them slide down to as low as tenth.
After 16 rounds, 1991 premiership winning coach Phil Gould suddenly resigned (and would later sign with the Roosters for the 1995 season) – former Panthers captain Royce Simmons was appointed caretaker coach for the remaining six matches. At that time, they were sitting just three points outside the top 5 but three wins in that time (including a big upset against the defending premiers Brisbane) was not enough to bridge the gap and ultimately finished eighth.
At season’s end, premiership winning captain Greg Alexander would depart the club, bound for expansion club Auckland for the 1995 season.
25 matches [2002-2003; 2005]
South Sydney junior who made his first grade debut in 1995, and switched to the Sharks in 1998. After 53 matches across seven seasons spanning both clubs, he was one of a host of new recruits that arrived at the Panthers in 2002.
Although primarily a hooker, he was used primarily as an interchange player for most of the 23 appearances he made in his first season at Penrith on account of one of his fellow recruits Luke Priddis also being a hooker, although he started in two matches in the second row.
In 2003, he played the majority of the season for the St. Mary’s-Penrith Cougars feeder team in the Premier League, however his one appearance was as starting hooker in the qualifying final versus Brisbane at Penrith Stadium where he replaced Priddis. However, Donato himself would sustain a broken hand early in the match but would play out the entire match. Unfortunately this injury impacted on his 2004 season.
In 2005 he would return to the NRL for what would be his final appearance, once again as the replacement hooker for Priddis. At the end of the season he would retire but would immediately enter the “front office” at the club, being employed as the Panthers Marketing and Chief Commercial Officer.
Saturday 8th March at Sportingbet Stadium
Penrith 30 – Tries: Mansour (2), Docker (1), Latimore (1), Taylor (1); Goals: Wallace (4), Soward (1) | Newcastle 8
After a scoreless opening half an hour, the Knights posted the first try to lead 6-0.
With just less than two minutes remaining in the half, a Jamie Soward bomb was batted back by Dean Whare back to Soward who then found an unmarked Elijah Taylor who had a clear run to the try line. Jamie Soward’s conversion locked it up at 6-all, however a Knights conversion penalty on the half time siren gave them a 2 point lead at the break.
Two minutes after the resumption Penrith took the lead when Josh Mansour powered his way from 25 metres out, dragging three Newcastle defenders over the line with him.
A 40/20 from the set after the restart gave the home team prime field position and Mansour had a double when he took a Peter Wallace cut out pass and acrobatically grounded the ball whilst most of his body was in the air but over the touch / dead ball line. Wallace’s sideline conversion had quickly turned a 2 point half time deficit to a 10 point lead.
The lead was further extended in the 62nd minute when Whare kicked the ball back inside and regathered it, turning it back inside to Adam Docker who bounced off a Knights defender and then ran to his left evading another defender to burrow over, with the conversion making it 22-8.
A penalty conversion pushed it out further to 24-8 and in the dying minutes Jeremy Latimore picked up a loose ball in the in goal to ground it, with the conversion making it a 22 point margin, and giving the Panthers an all important win in the opening round of the new premiership season.