Panthers can go all the way: Smith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Panthers can go all the way: Smith

By Brent Read 07/09/2003 09:33:37 PM Comments (0)

Two years ago the Penrith Panthers were NRL wooden spooners, now they're minor premiers and legitimate premiership contenders.

At least that's the opinion of Parramatta coach Brian Smith, who on a day of celebration at the foot of the Blue Mountains added Penrith to the growing list of contenders for the National Rugby League premiership.

The Panthers will head into next weekend's final series facing a dangerous opponent in the Brisbane Broncos, but riding the crest of a wave which has gathered momentum on the back of some breathtaking attacking football and record attendances at Penrith Stadium.

The ground record was broken for the third time this season as 22,304 spectators crammed in to watch the Panthers end Parramatta's premiership aspirations with a 40-22 victory over the Eels.

The other winners were the Sydney Roosters, who booked second spot on the ladder and relegated Canberra to fourth with a 23-16 victory over the Raiders at Canberra Stadium, Newcastle, which beat North Queensland 34-26 to finish seventh, and the NRL.

The game's governing body announced record average attendances of 14,456 per team for the season and the biggest aggregate crowd for a round - 145,586 - since 2000.

But Penrith was the big story, capping off a remarkable turnaround from 2001 to win 18 games and finish the season on top of the ladder.

"Everybody has made comment about the fact their D (defence) is not so good as you come to expect of teams that are premiership contenders or favourites," Smith said.

"But they take some holding in O (offence).

"Their attack is brilliant."

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