22 matches: 9 wins, 13 losses
Top point scorer: Ryan Girdler – 150 [10 tries, 55 goals]
Top try scorer: Robbie Beckett, Gary Freeman and Ryan Girdler – 10
Player of the year: Steve Carter
1995 dawned as a new era, with the newly formed Australian Rugby League (ARL) competition seeing the premiership expanded to 20 teams, and with that a newly expanded top 8 finals series.
After reaching the quarter finals in the pre-season Toohey’s Challenge, the Panthers opened the premiership season with a victory over Parramatta at home, followed by a loss to the Raiders and then a comfortable win over South Queensland to round out the first month of the season.
Although it had been brewing ‘behind the scenes’ for a number of months, in April was the revelation that a rebel competition was planned to start in 1996, with a number of players as well as teams having signed up within the first few weeks. Although it had been initially assumed that the Panthers were to ‘stay loyal’ with the incumbent ARL, in May it was announced that Penrith were to join the rebel competition. The main reason was quite clear – there was a greater assurance that the Panthers would have a more secure future, particularly if there was to be a reduction of teams later in the decade. This decision had left a number of players who had earlier signed with the ARL in a challenging position. A number soon switched to the Super League however two players had decided to remain with the ARL – one was Brad Fittler and the other was Matt Sing. Both would leave the Panthers at the end of the season.
On field, Penrith’s form dipped with a five-match losing streak after Round 4, although three of these losses were by 3 points or less. The pendulum soon swung back the other way, winning 6 of their next 7 in a mid-season run that saw the Panthers rise up to ninth and just outside the top 8. However once again it would swing back the other way with a six-match losing streak – the third in this stretch, which was a narrow loss to the Broncos in Brisbane finally snuffed out any feint chances the Panthers had to make a return to finals football.
The Panthers season finished on a bright note with a win over the Eels.