21 matches: 7 wins, 13 losses, 1 draw
Top point scorer: Ryan Girdler – 162 [8 tries, 65 goals]
Top try scorer: Robbie Beckett – 9
Player of the year: Carl MacNamara
The Panthers entered 1996 ready to play in the first season of the break away Super League competition, however in early March the Federal Court handed down the decision that the rebel competition could not proceed.
The Super League commenced appeal proceedings to commence their own break away competition, with Penrith reportedly to play as the ‘Penrith Cats’. However, ut after two weeks the full bench of the Federal Court had blocked any hope of that occurring. However, in that time all Super League clubs sat out the first round, thus Penrith forfeiting their opening round match against Parramatta and handing the Eels a first round victory without a ball being kicked.
Their first match in the second round was a draw against Canberra and the following week registered a convincing victory over South Queensland.
However, it would be a season where the Panthers were not able to sustain good form for long enough and the losses far outweighed the wins. Injuries played a part as did ill-discipline with a number of players suspended for periods of time throughout the season.
A five-match losing streak in July and August where the Panthers conceded more than 30 points in each match was sensationally snapped when a young Panthers team recorded what would be arguably the upset of the season, with a 16-14 victory over competition front runners Manly at Penrith. Whilst they would once again cop another hammering the week after, they would finish the season with a gutsy 24-16 victory over the Eels at a wet and windswept Penrith Stadium, in what would be John Cartwright’s final match for Penrith.
In October, the Super League succesfully won an appeal over the March decision and thus giving the Super League competition the green light for 1997.