Penrith bet the farm on Jarrod Sammut

Jarrod Sammut Penrith PanthersThe Penrith Panthers have today re-signed rookie flyer Jarrod Sammut for the next 2 years, blocking any chance of the NZ Warriors snaring the fullback to replace the injured Wade McKinnon for 2008.

It’s a big compliment to the young Jarrod Sammut. Only 21 years of age and having all but a few games of NRL under his belt, while he impressed greatly during 2007 – are Penrith placing too much emphasis on a player that while talented hasn’t really been proven over a long period?

Ok, so what has Sammut shown us in 2007? Strong positional play, good speed of foot and a knack for backing up and finding the try line. All good credentials, sure. But moving from fullback to the halves is a huge jump, not only in the fact he will guiding the team around the park, but will take on a massive defensive role and have to posses a much higher tackle count each week.

Penrith were able to do something similar with Preston Campbell, the small livewire fullback turned half was able to use his creative flair to lay on tries and provide attacking impetus – but on the flip side, his size and defensive problems probably cost the same amount of tries as well. This is why the Gold Coast Titans have looked to move Campbell back to fullback to prevent any centre field defence leaks.

The Panthers may have been right to step in and stitch Sammut up before any poaching took place, but the move to the halves and the installment of Sammut as the ‘great white hope for Penrith’ will obviously place pressure on the kid and may see him carry too much on his shoulders this season. The halves have been a problem for Penrith for some time, while they were able to win the Premiership way back in 2003 – it was on the back of a polished all round squad with attacking flair. While Gower was always a solid halfback and tough competitor, he really was a hooker at heart and probably wasn’t the best halfback in the world – but was virtually the best available to Penrith and even NSW at times.

While Penrith have showed their hand and committed to Jarrod Sammut for at least the mid term, they would be wise not to change one of their only successes in 2007 and that was Sammut playing at the custodian role. Matt Elliott might be searching for a killer punch or a dynamic edge in the halves, but lets not forget they have a proven performer in Joe Williams of South Sydney fame waiting to take up the reigns in the middle.

Sometimes you don’t know what you have, even when you’re staring it in the face – lets hope the Panthers and their coaching staff don’t get too tricky and beat themselves in the NRL 2008 season.

By John Chelsea 

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