There were naysayers that believed the transition would not work and that it was doomed to fail but if you are a Penrith fan or, more importantly, a Phil Gould fan, then you are cheering, as the Penrith Panthers Holden Cup side has taken out the 2013 Holden Cup premiership.
In a hard-fought and entertaining contest against a talented New Zealand Warriors side, the Panthers held on despite a late surge from the Warriors to win 42-30, with their key youngsters stepping up when required.
In a sweltering hot day, it was the Panthers who raced out to a huge lead – it was 34-6 in the Panthers favour at one stage – before the Warriors clawed their way back and very nearly won the game.
It was a player with first-grade experience that got the ball rolling early for the Panthers, with highly rated youngster James Roberts finishing with two tries and taking out the Jack Gibson Medal for best on ground.
For Roberts, he was just pleased with the win and with the team’s performance in the most important game of the season.
“It was tough. But the boys dug deep and got the win,” he said.
It was not that long ago when Roberts was sacked by the South Sydney Rabbitohs but when the opportunity came to re-sign with the Panthers, Roberts did not hesitate in the slightest.
“They’re very supportive and they don’t judge me on my past. It’s just from now on and my future and I’m enjoying my time,” he said.
“Hopefully it works out for the benefit of both of us and I can start round one next year and play for the season.”
Someone who should receive plaudits and will receive plaudits from Penrith fans and Phil Gould, is Holden Cup coach Garth Brennan.
Tasked with the job to guide the NYC side to glory, that is exactly what he did, with Gould confident Brennan can and will coach NRL in the future.
“Garth’s advancement will come over the next few years,” said Panthers’ general manager Phil Gould.
“He’ll coach NRL for sure.
“(These players) are all pretty much on contract. There’s a succession plan … NYC is still a long way from the NRL but the kids have all the potential, our job now is to help them realise their dreams as NRL players.”
Jack Gibson Medal: James Roberts.
3. George Jennings
2. James Roberts
1. Raymond Faitala-Mariner.