Why the Penrith Panthers' deal with Tevita Pangai Junior stinks

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Tevita Pangai-Junior, pictured here in action for the Broncos against the Dragons.
Tevita Pangai-Junior in action for the Broncos against the Dragons. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

How do you reckon Spencer Leniu is feeling right now?

Last Christmas, the kid knocked back offers from two rivals clubs to sign for less money to stay at Penrith until the end of 2022.

He believes in the club that introduced him to their pathways system as a raw 15-year-old and wants to be part of whatever success comes the Panthers' way in the next few years.

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And he desperately wants the chance to make amends for last year's lost opportunity.

The grand final loss to the Storm still stings and Penrith is headed in the right direction to set things right a year later.

But the popular Leniu may not be part of it.

While there is a lot of water to pass under the premiership bridge until grand final day 2021, the young prop could be the fall guy making room for Tevita Pangai Jr's late season 'deal' at Penrith.

Assuming the Panthers are at full strength and Ivan Cleary is looking at a like-for-like swap, Leniu is the player most likely to lose his bench spot to accommodate Pangai Jnr once James Fisher-Harris returns from a family-related absence.

Spencer Leniu, pictured here in action for the Panthers against the Melbourne Storm.
Spencer Leniu in action for the Panthers against the Melbourne Storm. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It's either Leniu or fellow bench forward Scott Sorensen.

Something about this whole deal just doesn't sit right with fans.

Due to the havoc Covid has wreaked on the game, the deadline for mid-season player movements was shifted from June 30 to the first Monday in August and remains in place this year and next.

It's meant players can swap clubs five weeks out from the finals, allowing the likes of Pangai Jnr to parachute his way to a premiership.

Remember, this is a player who hasn’t exactly bought into the team-first ethos at Brisbane.

He's about to join the tightest unit in the NRL.

But as Phil Gould said: "Picking up a damaging forward like Tevita Pangai Jnr might be the difference between beating the Melbourne Storm and not beating the Melbourne Storm on grand final day.

"He might arrive at the Bulldogs come November as a premiership winner."

Maybe.

It could also split a harmonious and winning team in two.

If not Luke Brooks, then who plays 7 for Sharks?

Cronulla fans are rightly excited about the arrival of Melbourne star Nicho Hynes next year.

He's a quality player weaned on the best system in the game.

If incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon stays true to his word, Hynes is being brought to the club to play in the halves despite doing all his damage for the Storm at fullback.

The question is – who will partner him?

Forget Luke Brooks. That one is unlikely.

Shaun Johnson is on his way out, the injury-prone Matt Moylan spends more time off the field than on it and Braydon Trindall looks more a bench player than a starting No.7 at this stage.

The Sharks' everywhere man, Connor Tracey, may be the last man standing.

He has been outstanding in an inconsistent Cronulla side, filling in all over the backline and getting the job done every time.

His work hasn't gone unnoticed by Fitzgibbon.

A Kennedy-Hynes-Tracey-Blayke Brailey spine wouldn't be the shabbiest in the NRL.

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