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 pursued a successful career in the rugby league media, currently employed at the ABC.

Last updated 22 November 2021

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


42 matches [1995-2021]

23 wins, 19 losses


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.

In the 2010s, the Cowboys enjoyed a far superior record – Penrith won 2 of the first 4 to the end of 2011, however, the Cowboys would win 8 of the next 11 up until the end of 2019. Four of the five victories in that decade were 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.

The fifth one was a 33-14 victory at 1300SMILES Stadium in 2018, which was their first win in Townsville since 2009.

Penrith have won the first three matches of the current decade, which included a 32-12 win at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in late 2020 (which secured the Panthers minor premiership) and was followed up with a 24-0 shutout in the opening round of the 2021 season at Panthers Stadium.

Last updated 19 November 2021

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.

PLAYERS | Steve Carter


Panther 277

244 matches [1989-2001]

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


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.

HEAD TO HEAD | South Sydney


89 matches [1967-1996; 1998-1999; 2002-2021]

41 wins, 47 losses, 1 draw


Penrith’s head to head history with South Sydney, the self-proclaimed “Pride of the League” dates back to the club’s debut season in 1967. Back then, the Rabbitohs were one of the heavyweights of the Sydney premiership.

Their first match was at Penrith Park on 21 May 1967. A football lesson was dished out to the premiership rookies, copping a 39-0 thrashing. The return match at Redfern Oval in August saw the Panthers give a better account of themselves, but still went down in a much closer encounter 14-7.

The Panthers would chalk up their first win in their third encounter. In the 1968 match at Redfern Oval, both teams were locked up at 7-all at half time, with three penalty conversions early in the second half to Penrith giving the visitors a 13-7 lead. Whilst the Rabbitohs struck back with a converted try to narrow the lead to 1, the Panthers defence stuck it out and held on for a 13-12 victory. The return match later in the season would be Penrith’s first appearance at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the equally prestigious Match of the Day. In a tight see-sawing battle, Penrith led 14-12 late in the second half before Souths regained the lead late in the match and clung on for a 19-14 victory.

Between 1969 and 1983, the Panthers would only win 6 from the 30 matches played, along with 1 draw.
This one draw would be at Penrith Park in 1970 – the home team fought back from 16-9 midway through the second half to lead 18-16 before a South Sydney penalty conversion with two minutes remaining saw them scramble to a lucky draw.

The best of these 6 wins was undoubtedly the win at Penrith Park in 1977. The Panthers piled on 5 tries in an 11 minute period to score a total of 9 tries on their way to a crushing 43-2 victory. This would remain the club’s biggest ever win until 1998 and remains the Panthers biggest ever win against Souths to this day.

On the flipside, Souths dished out a few hidings of their own during this time, with three 30-plus point hidings, including a 59-5 annhilation at Redfern Oval in Penrith’s “annus horribilis” season of 1980. This remains the Panthers worst ever loss to the Rabbitohs and the club’s fourth ever biggest loss.

As of the end of 1983, the ledger for Penrith read 7 wins and a draw from 34 matches.

From 1984 to 1999, the tables were turned dramatically, with Penrith winning 15 out of their 20 encounters. This included a 7 match winning streak between 1988 and 1993, which remains the longest against any one club to date for the Panthers.

Two wins standout during this run.

The first was a 19-8 win against the eventual minor premiers at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1989, which snapped a 12 match winning streak for the Bunnies. It was a dull first half with both teams locked up at 2-all, before the visitors pulled ahead to lead 15-2 midway through the second half. Whilst Souths would score a converted try to reduce the margin to 15-8 before Penrith iced the victory with one final try.

The following year South Sydney had free fallen to the premiership cellar, and came to a cold and wet Penrith Park to be handed a 44-10 hiding. The Panthers led 18-0 at half time, and whilst the visitors pulled the margin back to 12 early in the second half, Penrith would continue to pile on the points, including Greg Alexander who kicked a then club record 10 goals.

There was a brief cessation in their hostilities in 1997, when Penrith played in the break away Super League competition and South Sydney contesting in the ARL competition.

With re-unification occurring with the formation of the NRL, the two teams would meet once in both 1998 and 1999, with each of these matches at Penrith Park. The Panthers victory in 1998 was typified by a second half surge, which yielded 4 tries and converted a skinny 2 point lead into a comprehensive 36-18 victory. South Sydney would return in 1999 to perform a 20-0 shutout.

A matter of months later, South Sydney would be sensationally axed from the 2000 season for failing to meet criteria that was established upon the reunification of the competition. However, it must be said that Penrith were hovering close to the axe too at this time and had been lucky to survive. The Rabbitohs path to re-admission was hard fought, and they returned to the premiership in 2002.

Their first meeting after re-admission saw the fourth match in a row at Penrith Stadium, with the visitors recording a 23-16 victory. However, the Panthers would win the return clash later in the season at Gosford.

Penrith would win 8 of the next 12 to the end of the 2009 season – the four losses were away from Penrith, including an upset loss in 2004 when the eventual wooden spooners ambushed the defending premiers at Aussie Stadium, and then three at ANZ Stadium, where Souths had relocated from the 2006 season.

The new decade started with yet another Rabbitohs victory at ANZ Stadium in late May, but the Panthers would return later in the season with a 54-18 annihilation at CUA Stadium – the Panthers led 40-0 at half time, and Michael Gordon posted what was then a club record 30 points from 3 tries and 9 goals.

After Penrith’s win at Centrebet Stadium in 2011, South Sydney won the next four in a row up until 2014.

The Panthers broke the streak in 2015 at Pepper Stadium. With the Rabbitohs visiting as defending premiers, the Panthers got the jump by holding an 18-0 lead halfway through the second half, and whilst they conceded a late try still ran out comprehensive 20-6 victors.

The honours were evenly split from 2016 to 2019 with three wins each, and Penrith finally recorded their first win over Souths at ANZ Stadium in their eighth match at the venue, with a late field goal seeing Penrith win 19-18.

In 2020, the Panthers overcame the Rabbitohs in the second half with a 20-12 win at Kogarah in the regular season, and then met a second time in the preliminary final at ANZ Stadium. Similar to earlier in the season, Penrith withstood a late South Sydney surge in the second half to hang on for victory, and earn their first grand final appearance since 2003.

In 2021, the two teams would meet a total of four times.

In the regular season, the much anticipated top four clash at Dubbo in mid-June finished with a record breaking 56-12 over South Sydney, with Penrith running in 9 tries and eclipsing the previous biggest win over the Rabbitohs set in 2010. The return clash at Suncorp Stadium later in the season was more of a contest – the Panthers overcame a 12-0 deficit in the second half to record an ultimately convincing 25-12 victory.

With Penrith finishing second and South Sydney third, the two teams met three weeks later in the week 1 qualifying final. The lower ranked Rabbitohs sprung what was deemed an upset win, propelling them to the preliminary final but it allowed Penrith another chance. Penrith won the semi final the next week and also earnt a preliminary final berth.

With both teams winning their preliminary finals, they would face off for a fourth time in the grand final.

With Brisbane hosting the grand final for only the second time, the Panthers led 8-6 at half time, and then pushed it out again to 14-8 with 13 minutes to go. The Rabbitohs ensured a tense finish with a try in the 73rd minute, only for the conversion to be unsuccessful. A two-point field goal attempt dribbled over the dead ball line with 45 seconds remaining, and with a seven tackle set, the Panthers simply ran the ball out of dummy half to run down the clock, and with it their third premiership.

Last updated 19 November 2021

HEAD TO HEAD | Parramatta Eels


103 matches [1967-1996; 1998-2021]

44 wins, 58 losses, 1 draw


Much is owed to Parramatta for Penrith’s promotion to the first division, albeit in the power of self-interest. It made a successful push to the NSW Rugby League in 1966 for the Panthers to be promoted ahead of the preferred Wentworthville bid, whom Parramatta feared would cut a slice into their junior league if they were promoted.

The admission of Penrith into the Sydney premiership created a local western Sydney derby between the two clubs, given that Penrith is a 30 kilometre drive up the Great Western Highway from Parramatta.
Their first meeting was during the 1967 pre-season competition, with the Panthers winning a tight 6-5 match at Cumberland Oval in the group stage.

On 28 May 1967, the two teams met in their first premiership encounter – Penrith could only kick a solitary penalty goal in the second half as Parramatta recorded a comfortable 25-2 victory at Cumberland Oval.
In their third meeting, the Panthers led 12-5 at half time at Penrith Park, and then led 14-12 fifteen minutes into the second half. The remaining 25 minutes was played at a frenetic pace, but both teams were not able to add to the scoreboard, with Penrith holding on for a thrilling win.

The Panthers would register four straight victories over their neighbours from 1969 to 1971. The first of those three were tight affairs, with the winning margin being by three points or less. However, the fourth straight win was a lot more convincing. Penrith led 8-2 at half time in their first round match at Penrith Park, before stretching it out further to a 24-2 lead late in the second half, with the visitors scoring two late tries to lose 24-12.

In the 1970s, the construction of the Western Freeway (now the M4) bought Penrith closer to Parramatta with regards to travelling times. However, during that decade the two teams were drifting further apart in their premiership fortunes. The Eels were starting to emerge as a premiership heavyweight whilst the Panthers were perennial cellar dwellars.

This was reflected in their head to head ledger – it was increasingly growing in Parramatta’s favour, aided by a remarkable run that began in 1975 in which Parramatta were undefeated for 18 straight matches against Penrith. This was punctuated by a 19-all draw at Penrith Park in 1980, which was forced by the Panthers after scoring a late converted try. However this draw was bookended by a 10 match losing streak in the lead up to that match, with 7 more straight losses to be inflicted afterwards.

Finally, in 1984 the Panthers put nine years of misery to an end, and at an unlikely venue too. Parramatta was playing home matches at Belmore Sports Ground, whilst Cumberland Oval was being rebuilt. The visitors held a 10-2 lead, and whilst the Eels threatened to steal victory in the second half, the Panthers fought out a hard earned and well deserved 22-10 victory. It was Penrith’s win number 9 in what was the 35th match of the western derby – Parramatta had won 25 of them.

Later in the season, the Eels paid a visit to Penrith Park. The Panthers needed to win to qualify for their first ever finals series. In front of a then record and expectant crowd, the Eels left with a 22-10 win and in its wake many broken Panther hearts.

In 1985, Penrith finally become semi finalists, courtesy of a hard fought mid week play off for fifth win at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A matter of days later, on Saturday 7 September 1985, Penrith returned to the same venue, with their opponents being the Eels. On a historic day for the chocolate soldiers, the more experienced Eels outfit held a commanding 22-0 half time lead, and whilst the Panthers were able to at least get on to the scoreboard in the second half, were to leave the SCG licking their wounds after a 38-6 hiding.

Parramatta would continue to have the better of Penrith for the remainder of the decade, with the Panthers winning only 3 of the 8 matches to the end of 1989. One of these wins was a 16-12 win at Penrith Park in 1986, made more remarkable that the Panthers were only playing with 12 on the field after forward Paul Akkary was sent off only after 8 minutes, and had led 16-0 before holding off a fast finishing Eels in the last 20 minutes.

The 1990s started with another Parramatta victory, but the Penrith would soon start redressing, in part, the lop sided ledger by winning the next 7 of 10, with the seventh of these victories being a 24-16 victory at a water logged Penrith Stadium in the final round of the 1996 season. The Panthers over ran the Eels in the second half by coming back from a 16-6 half time deficit.

However, earlier in that season, Penrith had forfeited the Round 1 match against Parramatta, as an act of solidarity with the fellow Super League clubs, thus handing their rivals the premiership points without a ball being kicked. However, with the Super League competition running in 1997, it saw a cessation in hostilities as the Eels were playing in the ARL competition being run at the same time.

With re-unification occurring in 1998 to form the NRL, they met in the opening round with Parramatta comfortably winning 27-16 at Parramatta Stadium.

Both 1999 encounters were memorable for different reasons – firstly at Penrith Park on Easter Sunday, the Panthers shut out the Eels with a 13-0 shutout. Later in the season, at Parramatta Stadium, was perhaps the most spiteful of all the western derbies. With the Panthers clinging on to a 16-10 lead in the second half, two Penrith players were sin binned for foul language, with Parramatta using the 2 man advantage to equalise, and then squeeze ahead to record a 17-16 victory.

As a side note, 1999 could have spelt the end of this rivalry, with preliminary discussions about the two clubs merging to create a new western Sydney club as the NRL was looking at a 14 team competition for the start of 2000. Fortunately for both teams, both met the criteria with their stand alone status confirmed late in 1999.

In 2000, both teams would meet three times – twice in the regular season, with victories to the home team on both occasions, and then renewing their hostilities again the arena of semi final football, meeting in week 2 at the Sydney Football Stadium. Penrith led 10-2 in the first half, but Parramatta fought back to have it leveled at 10-all at half time, and then scored three more tries to none in the second half to record a convincing 28-10 victory.

2001 and 2002 were a dark period for Penrith in this rivalry. It started with a 40-4 loss at Stadium Australia as the first match in an opening round double header in mid-February. The opening round of 2002 would get worse, with a 64-6 loss at Parramatta Stadium. At the time it was the club’s second ever heaviest defeat.

Quite remarkably, it would be the closing round of 2003 before the two teams met again. By then, a lot had changed in fortune. Penrith had transformed into the arguably the form team of the competition, needing a win to secure the minor premiership. Parramatta needed a victory to qualify for the finals. The Eels raced out to a 10-0 lead, but the Panthers calmly regrouped, and as soon as Penrith took the lead, they would never headed, running seven tries past the Eels, including a hat trick to fullback Rhys Wesser, and recording a 40-22 victory. Securing the club’s second minor premiership was the reward for the victory, but surely it also erased some of the pain for the previous 2 seasons – and maybe for that final round loss at the same venue 19 years earlier for the older Penrith fans.

From 2004 to 2009, Penrith and Parramatta met 11 times, with the ledger being relatively even at 6 wins and 5 losses. Two of these wins stand out.

The 44-18 win at Parramatta Stadium in 2006 saw Penrith turn it on in the second half, scoring 30 unanswered points – all whilst halfback Craig Gower was in hospital, after being stretchered with a sternum injury halfway through the first half.

The match at CUA Stadium in 2009 was a 13 try thriller that saw the lead change 7 times, with a try to debutant winder Junior Tia Kilifi with only three minutes left securing the 38-34 win for the Panthers.

The fifth decade of the Battle of the West (as it would be coined for marketing purposes) started in front of a still record crowd of 22,582 at CUA Stadium. The Panthers raced out to a 22-0 lead in just as many minutes, however, the Eels would then score 30 unanswered points of their own to lead 30-22. The Panthers would stike back to make it 30-28 before the Eels scored late to secure an embarrassing loss for the home team.
However, Penrith would win 5 of the next 7 matches to the end of the 2014 season.

The CUA Stadium encounter in 2011 saw perhaps the best finish in the derby history – from a Penrith perspective at least. The Panthers were trailing by 6 right on the stroke of full time. A rather fortunate penalty to the home team gave them one tackle to conjure something. The Panthers swung the ball from the eastern sideline to the western sideline, and then back again, whilst losing going backwards about 20 metres before centre Michael Jennings broke the line and stabbed a kick through to the in goal which was latched on by fullback Lachlan Coote. It was then converted by Travis Burns to force the match into golden point. The usual field goal shoot out ensued, with the Eels missing two chances, but a David Simmons line break late in the second period of golden point allowed Penrith prime field position, with Luke Walsh calmly potting over the one pointer, and the Panthers recording a remarkable come from behind 23-22 victory.

Early in the 2012 season, the two teams met at Parramatta Stadium. Penrith held a commanding 23-0 lead at half time, and whilst they allowed in one second half try, made it 39-6 on the stoke of half time when former Eels winger Etu Uaisele crossed over for his hat trick. It completed what was at the time the Panthers biggest ever winning margin in the western derby.

An even bigger win was on the cards a couple of years later at Sportingbet Stadium when the home team were up 30-0 midway through the second half, but still ran out convincing 38-12 victors.
The Eels won both encounters in 2015 – winning by 6 on both occasions, including a rather dour 10-4 loss for the Panthers in Darwin of all places.

However, since the start of the 2016 season the Panthers have won four of the five matches, with the solitary loss being their one off meeting at ANZ Stadium in 2017.

In another memorable finish for Penrith fans, the visitors were trailing 18-16 late in the second half in their Pirtek Stadium clash in 2016, with a Jamie Soward cross field kick with seconds remaining was taken by Waqa Blake who then offloaded to Bryce Cartwright who dummied close to the line to cross over. An anxious wait with the NRL bunker soon confirmed the try, and with it a heart stopping 20-18 victory. Later in the season at Pepper Stadium, the Panthers fought back from a 14-0 deficit to score three quick tries and then hold on for a thoroughly entertaining 22-18 win.

In what was the first of many for the “comeback kids” that was the Panthers in 2018, Penrith fought back from a 14-0 deficit late in the first half to Parramatta in the opening round at Panthers Stadium. Only a matter of weeks later, the Panthers held out a committed Eels outfit to record a tight 12-6 victory at ANZ Stadium.

The two teams met in the opening round of the 2019 season, with the Eels reversing the corresponding 2018 fixture with a 20-12 victory at Panthers Stadium, but a few weeks later the Panthers inflicted the Eels first ever loss at their new home of Bankwest Stadium, with a hard fought 16-10 win.

In 2020, the Eels came back from 10-0 in the second half with a three try burst to sink the Panthers at Bankwest Stadium – in the wash up, it would remarkably be the only loss inflicted on Penrith during the COVID-19 enforced shortened season. Later in the season, the two teams met for the 100th time in premiership football, with the Panthers defensively too good for the Eels with a 20-2 win.

In 2021, their 101st meeting was amidst the early days of the Sydney COVID outbreak, and in front of an empty BlueBet Stadium, the Panthers had pushed ahead 19-18 late in yet another brutal chapter of the derby – a penalty to the Eels on the stroke of full time gave them an opportunity to steal victory at the death, but the penalty conversion sailed wide. They would meet again in the final premiership round, with the Panthers registering a record breaking 40-6 over an albeit weakened Eels side (and breaking the mark set in 2012 for the biggest win over Parramatta).

Both teams would meet for a third and final time in 2021 – both teams qualified for the finals, and would meet for a third time in finals football in the semi final in the unfamiliar surrounds of Mackay in central Queensland. The paths travelled by both teams had been different – second placed Penrith had lost their qualifying final, but afforded another opportunity due to finishing in the top 4 whilst sixth placed Parramatta had won their elimination final.

Both teams posted a converted try in the first half, however a late penalty conversion gave Penrith a vital 8-6 lead at the break. It ultimately proved the difference in what ended up being a scoreless second half. The Eels had a number of chances of gaining the lead in the second half, but poor handling and desperate defence kept them out. It was Penrith’s first win over Parramatta in finals football, and also historically was the first time the Panthers had won a week 2 semi final in the top 8 era, in their seventh attempt.

Whilst not one of the most publicised rivalries, it remains one of the true geographical derbies remaining in the NRL, and with both teams currently in the premiership heavyweight category, more memorable chapters are sure to be written in the future.

Last updated 19 November 2021

Penrith Panthers – from chocolate soldiers to black magic