He may be the youngest captain in the NRL, but Matt Moylan isn’t afraid to lay down the law for his teammates.
And the edict from the Penrith skipper is that it’s finals or bust for the Panthers in 2016.
“The goal is to be playing finals footy,” Moylan declared to AAP.
“It was disappointing last year, especially after the year we had in 2014 when we were one game short of the grand final, to not make the finals.
“We have to be there this year.”
A change in fortune will have plenty of say in the matter, given, more often than not, Penrith’s locker room had less able bodies than injured ones.
Their experienced spine of Moylan, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace and James Segeyaro spent just 175 total minutes of field time together.
While it’s a long way short of last year’s crisis, things haven’t started well in the injury department with Moylan himself troubled by back soreness following the trials and in doubt for the season start.
New coach Anthony Griffin, who replaced what Phil Gould described as a “tired” Ivan Cleary in October, will also bear a major factor on any finals charge.
The former Brisbane mentor flirted with introducing Moylan or promising talent Te Maire Martin into the halves over the summer, but is likely to give veteran pair Soward and Wallace first crack.
The signing of Peta Hiku means Penrith now boast an all-international backline with Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Hiku and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
NSW State of Origin star Trent Merrin has also arrived to lead a forward pack dripping with the free-wheeling skills of Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright.
The only question mark is over their ageing halves, however Moylan backed Soward and Wallace to lead them back to finals contention.
“They’ve got plenty left in them. They’ve showed that throughout the pre-season,” he said.
“Being so experienced in their careers, they’ve helped a lot of the younger boys come through.
“It’s a good thing for the club to have both of them there, because I know they’ll be playing good footy for us throughout the year.”
Premierships: 2 – 1991, 2003
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2015 – 11th, 2014 – 4th, 2013 – 10th
Coach: Anthony Griffin
Captain: Matt Moylan
Gains: Sitaleki Akauola (Wests Tigers), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta), Ben Garcia (Catalans Dragons), Josh Hall (AFL), Andrew Heffernan (Canberra), Peta Hiku (Manly), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers), Suaia Matagi (Sydney Roosters), Trent Merrin (St George-Illawarra)
Losses: Lewis Brown, Isaac John, Apisai Koroisau (Manly), Adam Docker, Brent Kite, Nigel Plum, David Simmons, Shaun Spence (retired), Jamal Idris (released), Sika Manu (Hull FC), Kieran Moss (Parramatta), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford)
Strengths: Established stars Matt Moylan, James Segeyaro, Dean Whare and Bryce Cartwright are all either in their prime or almost there.
Weaknesses: They were last in points last year and will now be relying on an ageing halves pairing in Soward and Wallace to take them deep into the finals.
Best team: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Peta Hiku, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Segeyaro, Sam McKendry, Bryce Cartwright, Elijah Taylor, Trent Merrin. Interchange: Tyrone Peachy, Jeremy Latimore, Suaia Matagi, Isaah Yeo
Predicted finish: 12th