PLAYERS | John Cartwright


Panther 248

184 matches [1985-1996]

56 points [14 tries]


One of four sons of founding father Merv Cartwright who played first grade at Penrith.

He debuted just before his 20th birthday, and soon became an integral part of the Panthers back row as they emerged as a premiership heavyweight in the late 1980s. Cartwright possessed a gifted passing game and finding an ability to offload the ball at the point of contact.

Cartwright debuted for New South Wales in 1989, and then in 1990 became the club’s third Australian Test representative when he was selected on the Kangaroo Tour and played in the first Test against Great Britain.

1991 was an injury disrupted season for Cartwright, but was a member of the Panthers maiden premiership winning team, coming off the bench just before half time.

He would assume the club captain role in 1992, which would be a role that he would hold until his final season in 1996. The last couple of seasons however would be plagued by injury, but would continue to provide leadership and experience in a team that was gradually being dismantled from the glory of 1991.

Cartwright would play one more season for Salford in the English Super League before retiring.

He would return to the Panthers in a coaching capacity, being the Second Division (reserve grade) coach in 2000 when the Panthers lost to the Bulldogs in the grand final. He would later become the Gold Coast Titans inaugural first grade coach in 2007, where he would be until he was sacked in 2014.

PLAYERS | Trent Waterhouse


Panther 431

186 matches [2002-2011]

158 points [39 tries, 1 goal]


Tall back rower who was a Cambridge Park junior, and was used to great effect off the bench during the Panthers premiership winning season in 2003.

Waterhouse’s form was rewarded with selection on the Kangaroo Tour, and achieving the rare feat of representing his country before state, becoming Penrith’s 12th Test player and capping it off with a try on debut. He would play all three matches against Great Britain on that tour.

In 2004, he gained a starting role at lock, and would later make his New South Wales debut during that year’s State of Origin series.

By 2007, he had disappeared off the radar with respect to representative football, and injury would restrict him to only 8 appearances that year.

He would shift from lock to second row in 2008. A reappearance of form saw Waterhouse return to both New South Wales and Australian selection in 2009 – he would claim a bit of unwanted history in Game 3 of the State of Origin series that year by becoming the first New South Wales player to be sent off (he would later be cleared by the judiciary).

His senior status would be rewarded by being named as stand-in captain throughout 2009 and 2010 whilst club captain Petero Civoniceva was unavailable.

Midway through the 2011 season, he announced his departure from the Panthers at season’s end, signing with English Super League club Warrington. He would play three seasons before returning to Australia and playing out his career with Thirroul Butchers in the Illawarra competition.

In 2016, Waterhouse was short listed in the Panthers Hall of Fame.

PLAYERS | Ryan Girdler


Panther 377

204 matches [1993-2004]

1572 points [101 tries, 581 goals, 6 field goals]


Girdler was an Illawarra junior who had debuted at the Steelers in 1991 before arriving at the Panthers in 1993 in the search of holding down a more permanent first grade backline position.

A series of injuries in his first two seasons had him seriously considering retirement and a return to Wollongong, however was convinced to stay by then coach Royce Simmons.

He gradually established himself as a classy centre who was also a sharpshooter with the boot – he would become the first choice goalkicker for the next decade and was the club’s top point scorer every season from 1995 to 2002. Girdler also had a nose for the try line, being the club’s top try scorer in 1999 and 2000. He had an uncanny knack to be in the right place at the right time, and at one time was crowned the “intercept king”.

Penrith’s Super League season ended up being Girdler’s breakout year, making his state and Australian debuts. He was also the competition’s top point scorer for that season with 197 points (breaking the then club record for most points in a season held by Greg Alexander – a record he would surpass again in 1999).

Upon the reunification of the two competitions, he was initially overlooked for further representative honours, but made his Test debut in 1999, as well as being selected for New South Wales in the State of Origin series. Late in the season, he set a point scoring record for most points in a match, scoring 28 from 3 tries and 8 goals in Penrith’s 52-10 demolition of Manly.

By 2000, Girdler had established himself as one of the competition’s premier centres. That season, he set more point scoring records – on the representative scene, he scored the most points for New South Wales in a match (32) and in a State of Origin series (52), and most points in a Test match (46), set during the World Cup. On the club scene, he overtook Greg Alexander’s mark of 1100 points, and becoming the club’s top point scorer.

At Penrith, Girdler was selected at five-eighth on occasion, initially as a stop gap but played in this position for most of the 2002 season. In the last round of the season against the Northern Eagles, he equalled the point scoring record he had set in 1999, once again scoring 28 points, this time from 2 tries and 10 goals. Upon the signing of Dally M Medal winner Preston Campbell, he would shift back to the centres for 2003.

Suffering a career threatening sternum injury in the opening round, he returned midway through the season, and by seasons end had a premiership ring, playing at centre in the grand final and converting the first two of the tries (he was off the field with a foot injury when Luke Rooney scored the match winning try late in the match). Girdler was selected on the Kangaroo Tour, marking a return from a two-year absence, however, he was not able to add to his Test appearances after being injured in a warm up match against Wales.

Early in the 2004 season, Girdler announced that he would retire at season’s end, citing an illness related to the sternum injury from the previous season. A hamstring injury suffered later in the season limited his appearances for the remainder of the season – he injured the hamstring whilst crossing over for his 101st try, which equalled Greg Alexander’s record for most Penrith tries). However, he was able to still register 200 first grade appearances for the Panthers. Girdler’s last match was in the preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs. He retired as the club’s top point scorer with 1571 points, as well as

Post retirement, Girdler has ventured into business as well as having a role in the media as a commentator. Furthermore, he was named as centre in the Team of Legends in 2006 to commemorate the club’s 40th anniversary.

PLAYERS | Luke Lewis


Panther 416

208 matches [2001-2012]

356 points [89 tries]


Blacktown City junior who made his first grade debut late in the 2001 season at the age of 18.

The following year, he had cemented a place in the Panthers backline, mostly as a winger but occasionally in the centres. Lewis scored a total of 35 tries over the 2002 and 2003 seasons, forming an exciting and prolific back three with fellow winger Luke Rooney and fullback Rhys Wesser. He would be part of the premiership winning squad as the Panthers surged towards their second title in 2003.

His form would be rewarded with selection on the 2003 Kangaroo Tour, however, would controversially not be selected for the Third Test, losing out to a player who was called into the squad.

He would finally be awarded with representative honours, playing all 3 matches on the wing for New South Wales in the 2004 State of Origin series.

Lewis would continue to alternate between wing and centre in the following few seasons but would on occasion fill in at five-eighth as cover for injury.

2008 saw an initial shift to the forwards but would soon move back into the halves, this time as halfback. It was initially seen as a stop gap for injury and form but managed to hold that position for most of the season. He was emerging as one of the most complete footballers to ever play for Penrith.

The following season saw a more permanent shift to the forwards, starting as a lock and every now and then at second row – although he would still be named at five-eighth. Early in the 2008 season, he had verbally agreed to join South Sydney, however, soon reneged and re-signed with Penrith.

2009 saw both a return to New South Wales and a belated Test debut, becoming the Panthers’ 15th Test player in the end of season Four Nations tournament. He would soon cement a spot in the Kangaroos line up, playing 12 matches to the end of 2012.

Lewis would be appointed captain in 2010 whilst club captain Petero Civonoceva was not available for selection, and upon his departure at the end of 2011 would be appointed club captain for 2012.

Early in the 2012 season, he would become the eighth player to play 200 first grade matches for Penrith. However, Lewis would be relieved of the captaincy midway through the 2012 season (seen as a temporary measure by coach Ivan Cleary whilst he was Origin duty for New South Wales). Soon afterwards, he was successfully granted a release 2 years early from his contract, soon after signing with Cronulla. Injury would prevent a proper farewell from the club, playing his last match in early July.

Post-departure from Penrith, Lewis would continue playing representative football, and win a second premiership with Cronulla in 2016. In 2017, he became the 22nd player to make 300 first grade appearances and retired at the end of the 2018 season. Post football he has begun a career in the rugby league media.

Last updated 2 November 2019

PLAYERS | Brad Izzard


Panther 196

206 matches [1982-1992]

283 points [73 tries]


Mount Druitt junior who was initially a reluctant inclusion in the lower grades, however, his talents had propelled him to a first grade debut at 19. He made an immediate impression, being selected to play for New South Wales after only 13 matches, and playing all 3 matches in the 1982 State of Origin series. However, an injury sustained later that season denied him an opportunity to be selected on the Kangaroo Tour.

With the exception of a fourth(and final) appearance for New South Wales in 1984, further representative opportunities would elude Izzard.

That aside, he would become a regular member of the Panthers line up that was gradually on the rise as a premiership force from the mid 1980s. He would predominantly play in the centres, however, on occasion would be selected at five-eighth, often forming a deadly halves combination with Greg Alexander.

His talents could not be denied, but his size had him often at loggerheads with the club coaches throughout the 1980s with relation to his fitness.

The arrival of Phil Gould as coach in 1990 appeared to give Izzard’s career a shot in the arm, becoming an important member of the Panthers.

In the 1991 grand final, he scored a crucial try in the second half that allowed the Panthers to tie it up at 12-all.

He became the second player in 1992 after Royce Simmons to make 200 first grade appearances for Penrith. A neck injury during that season hampered his efforts, and it eventually led to his retirement.

In 2006, he was named at centre in the “Team of Legends” to celebrate the Panthers’ 40th anniversary.

PLAYERS | Tony Puletua


Panther 393

211 matches [1997-2008]

160 points [40 tries]


New Zealand born St. Marys junior who was made his debut as a 17 year old during Penrith’s Super League season. He would soon be a regular member of the squad, alternating between a starting front rower and interchange forward.

In 1998, he made his Test debut for the Kiwis, making the first of his 21 appearances, and become a mainstay in their forward pack for most of the next decade.

Puletua switched to the second row in 2000 and had a break out season in the Panthers premiership winning 2003 season, forming a formidable pairing with fellow New Zealander Joe Galuvao – their long hairstyles had them coined as the “Hair Bears”.

He suffered a season ending injury after only 5 rounds in 2005 but returned the following season as the appointed club captain after it had been stripped off team mate Craig Gower.

Later that season, he was named in the second row in the ‘Team of Legends’ to commemorate Penrith’s 40 seasons in the premiership.

Whilst he was not able to recapture his 2003 form, he provided experience in the Panthers forward pack, making a return to the front row in 2008, during which he became the seventh player to make 200 first grade appearances for Penrith. However, he was released one year early from his contract at the end of that season after playing a total of 211 matches. After his departure from the Panthers, he was selected for Samoa at the end of season World Cup.

Puletua would join the English Super League St. Helens in 2009. He would play seven seasons in the Super League before returning to Australia at the end of 2015.

HEAD TO HEAD | North Queensland Cowboys


North Queensland were one of the four expansion teams introduced to the newly named Australian Rugby League (ARL) for the 1995 season.

The first meeting between the Panthers and the Cowboys was at Penrith Stadium on 1 July 1995. The home team had led 14-4 at half time, and powered on in the second half to cross for five more tries to run out comfortable 40-10 victors.

In 1996, Penrith ventured to Townsville for the first time, and made it 2 from 2 with a 21-0 shut out at Stockland Stadium.

In 1997, both teams participated in the Super League, and for the first time met twice in a season. Honours were split, but didn’t fall in favour of the home team – Penrith won 19-12 at Stockland Stadium in Round 3, the Cowboys finally recorded their first victory in their fourth meeting, winning by 7 in a high scoring encounter at Penrith Stadium.

1998 saw it revert back to the one off meeting, with the Cowboys travelling down to Penrith. The Panthers looked to have the match in control with a commanding 26-0 lead at half time, however, they inexplicably capitulated by conceding 36 points in the second half, and lose 36-28. It was at the time the biggest recorded comeback in premiership history – one that would be equalled by Penrith themselves 11 years later at the same venue against the New Zealand Warriors.

The Panthers would continue to grow an advantage in the head to head ledger, although on occasion the Cowboys were able to get one back. However, between 1999 and 2004, Penrith would win 8 of the 10 meetings, with the Panthers hitting at least 30 points in 5 of those matches. The biggest one of those victories was at Penrith Stadium late in the 2004 season – the home team converted an 18-6 half time lead into a 56-6 annihilation at full time. It remains the Panthers biggest ever win against the Cowboys to date, and their fourth ever biggest win overall.

Another notable match was a first for both teams at Dairy Farmers in 2003. Being locked up at 24-all at full time, both teams would play their first ever golden point match (and the second one ever overall). Penrith had actually forced the draw courtesy of a try with only 3 seconds remaining in regular time. In the final minute of the golden point period, Joe Galuvao crashed over to record a 4 point victory – it would the final victory in their still club record 8 straight match winning streak.

At the end of the 2004 season, the teams had met 16 times, with Penrith winning 11 and North Queensland 5.

By 2005, the Cowboys were no longer cellar dwellers and were on the rise in the premiership stakes – North Queensland qualified for its maiden finals series in 2004 and were grand finalists in 2005.

The Cowboys would win the next three (both meetings in 2005, including a crushing 38-18 win in Townsville) and the first meeting in 2006, but the Panthers would win 4 of the next 5 on the bounce, to the end of 2009 – the solitary loss was in golden point at Penrith in 2007, whilst there was yet another golden point thriller at Dairy Farmers Stadium in 2008, with a Jarrad Sammut field goal (struck at an angle from close range and hitting the right upright before rebounding back in) getting the points for the visitors.

So far this decade, the Cowboys have the better of the running, winning 8 of the 13 meetings from 2010 to 2018. Five of the Panthers victories have been at home – the fifth one was a 33-14 victory at 1300SMILES Stadium in 2018, which was their first win in Townsville since 2009.

At Penrith during this time, the Panthers have suffered their heaviest defeat against the Cowboys (4-36 in 2013), however, turned in one of the more memorable encounters the following year. In a see sawing second half encounter, the two teams were locked up at 22-all with 10 minutes remaining, before Matt Moylan executed the clutch play by slotting a field goal with 90 seconds remaining to record a 23-22 victory.

PLAYERS | Greg Alexander


Panther 228

228 matches [1984-1994; 1997-1999]

1100 points [100 tries, 343 goals, 14 field goals]


Penrith junior and schoolboy star who debuted as a 19 year old in 1984. Possessing a tactical kicking game, he quickly established himself as the first choice halfback, and almost singlehandedly pulling the Panthers up from the premiership cellar. He was awarded the Dally M Rookie of the Year award at season’s end.

In 1985, he took over the goal kicking duties, and would be awarded the Dally M Player of the Year as he was a driving force behind Penrith qualifying for its maiden final series.

Alexander would be a late call up for the 1986 Kangaroo Tour, playing in 10 Tour matches but was not able to crack into the Test team.

In 1987, he overtook Bob Landers record for most points scored for Penrith.

By 1990, ‘Brandy’ had firmly established himself as one the premier players of the Winfield Cup, being selected for New South Wales and then finally making his Test debut in 1989 when named at halfback against New Zealand – he was Penrith’s second ever Kangaroo after Royce Simmons, however, he was Penrith’s first home grown Test player.

Alexander would assume the role of club captain in 1990, as he ably led the club to their maiden grand final appearance. Whilst it ended in defeat, he was rewarded with selection in yet another Kangaroo Tour, where he would play his last Test match against France.

1991 would be capped off with Alexander leading Penrith to their first ever premiership, putting in a commanding performance in the grand final, including a 38m field goal to break a 12-all deadlock late in the second half, and then nailing a sideline conversion to take a 19-12 lead with minutes remaining. On the club’s finest day, he was a Penrith junior holding aloft the greatest prize in Australian rugby league.

The following year saw the tragic death of his brother and team mate Ben. It saw a downturn in his career, in which he was understandably lacking hunger and desire. He would be relieved of the captaincy in 1993 and the next year would be shifted to fullback after Penrith had signed New Zealand Test halfback Gary Freeman. However, during that time, he passed 1000 points for the Panthers, being the first player to do so.

Seeking a fresh start, Alexander left Penrith at the end of 1994, signing with newcomers Auckland for the 1995 season.

He would successfully seek a release at the end of his second season and return to Penrith in 1997 for their solitary Super League season. He soon became only the third player to play 200 first grade matches for Penrith. Brilliant early season form saw Alexander make a return to representative football for the first time since 1991, being selected in the New South Wales team for the Tri-Series tournament. However, he would sustain a foot injury during the match that ultimately saw him miss the remainder of the season.

He would play two more injury riddled seasons before retiring at the end of the 1999 season. It was during that last season that he had passed 100 tries for Penrith, once again being the first player to do so.

Post retirement, Alexander has established himself as one rugby league’s key voices, working as a commentator with Fox Sports. He has also kept ties with the club, currently being a board member at the Panthers. He was also honoured with selection at halfback in the ‘Team of Legends’ in 2006 and then one of the four initial inductees into the Panthers Hall of Fame in 2016.

Amongst Panthers fans, there is a unanimous agreement that Greg Alexander is the greatest ever to play for the Penrith Panthers, and it is an honour that should remain for many years to come.

PLAYERS | Royce Simmons


Panther 181

238 matches [1980-1991]

61 points [15 tries, 1 goal, 3 field goals]


From the Central West town of Gooloogong, Simmons trialled with St. George and South Sydney before earning a contract with Penrith. Making his debut in 1980, he would initially play at lock, but would soon take over from incumbent Jim Jones for the hooker role.

In 1983, he was appointed club captain, overseeing the transition of a Panthers team that would slowly emerge as a premiership heavyweight, starting with their maiden finals appearance in 1985, and through to late 1980s.

Simmons was selected for New South Wales as hooker for the 1984 State of Origin series. With the exception of the 1985 series which he missed with injury, he was a constant selection until the 1988 series, where he played the last of 10 matches.

In 1985, he led the Panthers to their first ever finals series.

The following year, he became Penrith’s first ever Australian Test footballer, selected to play New Zealand in Auckland. Simmons was named for the Kangaroo Tour at season’s end, however, his Test career would be short, playing his 10th and final Test in 1987.

In 1990, he became the first Penrith player to make 200 first grade appearances for the Panthers. The 1990 grand final loss would be his last as captain, relieved of the role for the 1991 season. Injury and form saw him dip in and out of the team that season, and had announced that it would be his last. Given a swansong appearance in the 1991 grand final, he made it a memorable one, scoring two tries (the final one being the match winner), as he retired as a premiership winner and with a then club record 238 first grade matches. He famously said after the match that he wished to have a beer with everyone in Penrith.

However, it would not be the last Penrith would see of Simmons, returning towards the end of the 1994 season when he was appointed as caretaker coach after premiership winning coach Phil Gould had quit. He would become head coach for the following seven seasons, before being sacked at the end of the 2001 season.

Royce Simmons was named at hooker in the club’s “Team of Legends” in 2006 and then was named as one of the four original inductees into the Panthers Hall of Fame in 2016.

PLAYERS | Craig Gower


Panther 383

238 matches [1996-2007]

225 points [53 tries, 4 goals, 5 field goals]


Penrith junior (from Colyton) who made his first grade debut as an 18 year old in 1996. Starting as a halfback, Gower would soon alternate between the number 7 and hooker.

The following season, he made his representative debut for both the Super League New South Wales and Australian teams.

In 1999, he was selected to make his Test debut, however, lost his spot before the match due to a disciplinary incident. Soon after, he would make his debut for New South Wales in the State of Origin series, the first of six matches that would span 5 series to 2006. At the end of the season, Gower would finally make his Test debut during the Tri Nations tournament, playing the first of 18 Tests.

In 2000, he was named the Dally M hooker of the year and was a member of the victorious World Cup squad.

After re-signing in 2001 (with the infamous get-out clause if he was unhappy), Gower was named club captain in 2002 with the departure of Steve Carter, and reverted to the halfback position after the signing of representative hooker Luke Priddis. He would grow into the captaincy, culminating with leading the Panthers to premiership glory in 2003, replicating fellow local junior Greg Alexander in 1991 when lifting up the premiership trophy. He would be rewarded with selection on the Kangaroo Tour, playing in 2 of the 3 Tests.

In the years after their premiership success, Gower would continue to lead the Panthers, showcasing his competitiveness and toughness. In 2006, another disciplinary incident in the pre-season saw him stripped of the club captaincy (however would still lead the side in 2 matches that year). As part of the season’s 40th anniversary celebrations, Gower was named on the bench in the Team of Legends.

In 2007, he regained the captaincy but would successfully seek a release at seasons end with two seasons remaining. He would leave Penrith with 238 first grade appearances, finishing just 6 short of the club record held by Steve Carter.

Gower would leave the NRL by switching to rugby union, and left Australia by signing with French club Bayonne. Being of an Italian background, he would play 11 Tests for Italy, before returning to rugby league in 2012, playing for the London Broncos in the English Super League.

Citing a desire to return to Australia, he returned to the NRL midway through the 2013 season, however, for rival club Newcastle – one of Gower’s 6 matches for the Knights was a visit to Penrith. It would be a swansong, retiring at the end of the season.

Further club honours would await Gower, being named as one of the four inaugural inductees to the Panthers Hall of Fame in 2016 and being awarded life membership in 2018.

Penrith Panthers – from chocolate soldiers to black magic