SEASONS | 1992

22 matches: 10 wins, 11 losses, 1 draw

Top point scorer: Andrew Leeds – 94 [3 tries, 41 goals]

Top try scorer: Brad Fittler – 6

Player of the Year: John Cartwright


The Panthers found themselves in the unfamiliar territory of being the defending premiers, with each of the other 15 teams seeking to get one over the champions. To use a well-worn cliché – the hunter was now the hunted.

With the exception of the retiring Royce Simmons, the Panthers squad remained relatively unchanged for 1992. On the recruitment front, their major signing was former Wallaby Andrew Leeds who had converted to league in 1989 and played three seasons at Parramatta. He would play 19 matches in 1992 as a goal kicking fullback, and finished the season as the top point scorer – although his stay would be for the solitary season, and joined Western Suburbs in 1993.

A grand final rematch was scheduled for the opening round, with the Raiders exacting some revenge for the loss the previous September with a 14-10 win at Bruce Stadium. The following week, the Panthers played their first match at home since their premiership triumph, and lost 14-2 to Newcastle.

However, this was not the first time a team defending their title had lost the opening two matches, and would win their next three with wins over Manly, Brisbane at the imposing Lang Park and then Illawarra.

At the midway point (after 11 rounds), Penrith had a record of 6 wins and 5 losses, and sitting in eighth – but it was a congested ladder, and were only two points outside the top five and a further two points off first. If Penrith kept winning, they were in the hunt to have the chance to defend their title come September.

On 21 June, Penrith had posted a commanding 23-10 win over Eastern Suburbs at Penrith Stadium. Later that night, after a club function in which the premiership blazers had been presented to the grand final squad, a few players in the first grade squad were headed towards a night spot in neighbouring St Marys and were involved in a car accident. One of these players, Ben Alexander, the younger brother of premiership winning captain Greg, was killed. Three other players, that being Glen Liddiard, Scott Murray and Luke Goodwin had only suffered minor injuries.

The following week versus Western Suburbs at Campbelltown, Penrith posted an emotional 18-10 victory. The win had lifted them to their highest position yet on the ladder for 1992 (3rd), but were testing their depth in the process. A total of 38 players had been used, including 11 debutants. For a number of matches throughout the season (even before the accident), the team that ran out for the Panthers barely resembled the all-conquering side from 1991. In the second half of the season, John Cartwright admirably led the club and his deeds did not go unrewarded, winning the player of the year award.

Aside from the death of his brother, Greg Alexander had also been battling a knee injury throughout the season, limiting him to just seven appearances. Also, forward Mark Geyer had quit in July and sat out the rest of the season.

At the end of July, the Panthers sat inside the five. However, they would lose five out of their last six to slide outside of the five. Their first ever loss to the eventual wooden spooners Gold Coast Seagulls in the last round had put a clos to a difficult season, finishing eighth, with a credible 10 wins and 1 draw from 22 matches. Fellow grand finalists Canberra had also missed the finals, registering only eight wins.

In the lower grades, it was a mixed bag, with the reserve grade team making the finals (but eliminated in week 2), whilst the third tier Presidents Cup team finished second last.

On the representative front, Brad Fittler, John Cartwright and debutant Graham Mackay were selected for the ultimately victorious Australian World Cup squad.

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