PLAYERS | Brad Izzard

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Panther 196

206 matches [1982-1992]

283 points [73 tries]

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_izzard-brad.htm


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

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Panther 393

211 matches [1997-2008]

160 points [40 tries]

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_puletua-tony.htm


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

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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

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Panther 228

228 matches [1984-1994; 1997-1999]

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

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_alexander-greg.htm


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

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Panther 181

238 matches [1980-1991]

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

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_simmons-royce.htm


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

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Panther 383

238 matches [1996-2007]

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

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_gower-craig.htm


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.

PLAYERS | Steve Carter

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Panther 277

244 matches [1989-2001]

272 points [66 tries, 3 goals, 2 field goals]

Stats: http://mightypanthers.webs.com/players_carter-steve.htm


A Central Coast junior who had played for the Australian Schoolboys team in 1987 whilst attending Jamison High School in Penrith. He made his first grade debut at Penrith against the Illawarra Steelers at Penrith Park in 1988, coming off the bench. He would make 2 more appearances off the bench that season, including the fifth spot play-off against Balmain, which Penrith lost.

In 1989, he started establishing himself at Penrith, alternating between five-eighth and halfback, and being spoken as one of the emerging players that was making a mark at Penrith as it was quickly emerging as a premiership heavyweight in the late 1980s and into early 1990s. He would be the first choice halfback in 1990, although he was relegated to the bench in the finals series, including the 18-14 loss in the grand final.

He shifted back to five-eighth in 1991, partnering captain Greg Alexander in the halves, as the Panthers powered on to their maiden premiership. That year Carter also made his representative debut, selected for City. He would go one better in 1992, being selected for New South Wales in the second match of the State of Origin series in Brisbane, where he came off the bench.

One of the consistent fixtures in the following years was Steve Carter’s selection as the Panthers five-eighth, having a few partners at halfback in that time.

In 1996, he was appointed club captain, leading a team that by then barely resembled the champion team of five years before, marked by a number of high profile departures in that time. As one of the more experienced players in the team, would lead by example, gaining a reputation as being a fierce combatant as well as possessing both a strong kicking and running game.

It would be an appointment he would hold for six seasons, as the club dipped in and out again of finals football throughout the late 1990s.

In 2000, he became the fifth player to play 200 first grade matches for the Panthers. Despite battling a chronic shoulder injury, he would gradually overtake the other four players, and late in the 2001 season he overtook then coach Royce Simmons to hold the record for most first grade appearances for Penrith.

He would depart the club at the end of that season, playing on for one more season for Widnes in the English Super League before retiring.

Penrith Panthers – from chocolate soldiers to black magic