24 matches: 6 wins, 17 losses, 1 draw
Top point scorer: Greg Alexander – 57 [5 tries, 18 goals, 1 field goal]
Top try scorer: Greg Alexander – 5
Player of the Year: Royce Simmons
Heading into the 1987 season, it was supposed to be one where it would be a continued upward trajectory, building on what had been achieved in 1985 with their first ever finals appearance and had been visible for large parts of 1986.
The premiership season kicked off in winning style with an 18-8 triumph over Western Suburbs at Penrith Park, but would lose their next four to sit in second last place on the ladder.
The streak was broken with a highly impressive 23-12 win over Eastern Suburbs at Parramatta Stadium, and started a mini resurgence with four wins out of the next six, and climbing to eight spot and only two wins outside of the top 5.
This patch of form also translated to the mid-week Panasonic Cup knockout competition, firstly winning their qualifier versus Brisbane Firsts, and then winning the qualifying final versus Cronulla and then a high scoring semi final versus Parramatta to make their second ever final of this competition.
However, just like their first appearance in the inaugural 1974 competiion, they would finish at the wrong end of the scoreboard at full time, this time in a 14-12 loss to previous two times champions Balmain at Parramatta Stadium.
This loss would be amongst the start of a losing streak in the premiership, losing nine straight matches to plummet back down the ladder to equal last.
A tenth straight loss was on the cards versus Illawarra at Penrith Park in Round 21, when they trailed 14-10 against the Steelers deep in the second half. However, the Panthers rallied and then hung on to record a much needed 22-20 victory. It would be their sixth (and final) victory of the season, although two weeks later they held on for a 10-all draw with St. George after leading 10-0 with only five minutes remaining. The season ended with a 30-4 loss to defending premiers Parramatta at Penrith Park, although the Eels was also playing their last match for the season.
Greg Alexander’s season was prematurely ended in the draw to St. George suffering an eye gouge, but would finish the season as both the club’s top point scorer and try scorer. Royce Simmons’s run continued on the representative stage, selected for both New South Wales (in all four four matches, including the exhibition match in the US) as well as for Australia in the one off Test versus New Zealand. He was also awarded the club’s player of the year.
Tim Sheens, who had been credited with the transformation of the Panthers from his first season in charge in 1984 would be moving on at season’s end, heading to Canberra.
Despite the disappointment of the first grade season, the reserve grade team flew the flag for the club in 1987, finishing third in the regular season. They then went on to qualify for their first ever grand final, facing up to Manly. Led by Craig Izzard and their entire starting 13 having had some form of first grade experience, including Darryl Brohman and Warren Fenton, they prevailed over the Sea Eagles to win 11-0 and record the Panthers second premiership after the Under 23s success in 1978.
At season’s end, the playing roster would change with a number of departures for the 1988 season, and in its place a number of new recruits.